Hickory, North Carolina is famous for furniture and textiles. But alot of other things have happened around Hickory through the years. Fortunately we can catch up with it all at the Catawba Historical Society Museum in Newton NC.
Newton is about fifteen miles south east of Hickory and just south of Conover. The classic Neoclassical style courthouse has been renovated into a top notch museum. Not only is the museum one of the best I’ve ever been in, but its free.
The greatest thing about it is the sheer volume of displays that are inside. When I say there are three floors of exhibits I mean three floors full of exhibits. The surprising part is it doesn’t feel crowded.
The quality of the exhibits is unmatched by better known museums. There are at least four areas of the museum where houses—for lack of a better term— have been built inside the museum. The staff have gone to great lengths to create a fully immersive experience for their guests. Inside of the museum there are mockups of a jail, a doctor’s office, a lawyer’s office and a four room cabin.
Of course the other exhibits are just as impressive. While furniture is displayed throughout the entire museum, don’t miss the room dedicated to furniture. There’s an amazing bureau there handmade by a man who made his own coffin. The Civil War exhibit is top notch not only in the volume of authentic artifacts. Other wars are represented as well and a local connection is always maintained. The exhibits about early settlers and the Native Americans are equally thorough, exploring native American villages and customs and paralleling them with displays on early settler life.
There is an excellent collection of pottery including the locally produced “face jugs.” On the lower floor especially exhibits focus on life in the twentieth century. Racing, manufacturing and medicine are only a few of the topics covered. One of the rifles displayed was manufactured in Buncombe County.
There was many interesting mini-exhibits. These are smaller individuals items or small collections in glass cases throughout the museum. Among these are medical equipment, pottery, a magic lantern.
This museum is a must see for anyone within a hundred miles. Take exit 130 off I-40 and make a left at the top of the ramp onto US Highway 70. Stay on 70 until second traffic light in downtown Conover. Make a left and stay on North Main Street until you reach Newton. The Courthouse is on your left, you can’t miss it. For more information and the hours make sure to visit the Historical Society’s Website by clicking here.