Transforming into a heritage center

Jonesville artisan Bill Woell examines cherry wood donated for the proposed Foothills Heritage Learning Center in the old Jonesville Town Hall.

Judy Wolfe photographs water damage to ceiling tiles while assessing visible needed repairs and renovations.

Judy Wolfe and Bill Woell talk about plans for woodworking demonstrations and classes planned for the basement of the proposed Foothills Heritage Learning Center.

What was once the courtroom room and Jonesville Town Council meeting room of the old town hall is now being used for storage.

Bill Woell and Judy Wolfe examine the front offices of the old Jonesville Town Hall building, now used for storing Christmas decorations.

Judy Wolfe and Bill Woell pictured in front of the old Jonesville Town Hall, located beside the library.

The old Jonesville Town Hall now being considered for a heritage learning center is located beside the town library on Main Street.

JONESVILLE — It takes vision to look at the old Jonesville Town Hall building and see a heritage learning center, and Judy Wolfe and Bill Woell have plenty of it.

Wolfe looks at what used to be the town manager’s office and sees the perfect space for an art studio.

Woell, who Wolfe said will be the lead resident artisan for the center, looks at an empty basement painted green and sees a workshop for woodcrafters such as himself. When the door is open, the pavement of the basement extends under a covered space so woodworking classes and demonstrations can be spread outside when the weather is good.

Wolfe, who chairs the Jonesville Historical Society, and Woell are spearheading efforts to raise the money needed to repair and renovate the 60-year-old building as the site for a proposed Foothills Heritage Learning Center. Jonesville Town Council members voiced strong support for the project Monday night following Wolfe’s presentation on the proposed center.

Wolfe and Woell met at the old town hall, located beside the Jonesville Library on West Main Street, Thursday afternoon to photograph the building, which has been vacant since town officials moved into their new town hall on N.C. 67 in April of 2008. Wolfe made a point to take photographs of damage to help in assessing the repairs and renovations needed for the project.

Among the photographs she took were of ceiling tiles stained by water leaks. “We know we have to replace the roof because there is some source of water identified,” she said.

Woell said the old windows also may need to be replaced because of the inside damage around them caused by leakage.

Wolfe said the “before” photographs also will document the work that went into the Foothills Heritage Learning Center for future visitors. “People need to know where we started,” she said.

Beginning on the ground floor, Wolfe pointed out the chairs and table where the Jonesville mayor and town council members sat. She served one term on the council in the 1970s. The benches where visitors sat are also still in the room.

At one point, Wolfe said a magistrate also held court in the large room.

Today, the council chamber is mostly used for storage by town departments. Wolfe said the Jonesville Historical Society, which she chairs, also stores donated items for its annual Labor Day yard sale fundraiser there.

What was once the town hall’s front offices are used for storing Christmas decorations, and Jonesville’s first fire truck fills one of two vehicle bays on the right side of the building. Wolfe said the fire truck is expected to remain as part of the Foothills Heritage Learning Center.

Woell said it’s important for people to realize that the steering committee heading up the renovation is not going to try to do the whole building at once. “We’re going to try to start in the basement or on the ground floor,” he said, “establish a work area and then take it one step at a time incrementally as we begin to develop and grow.”

Wolfe said the steep stairs leading to the basement will need to be replaced for safety reasons, with a landing added at the bottom.

Preliminary plans call for two bays of a large storage shed behind the old town hall and the grounds also to be used by the center.

Wolfe said on Thursday that members of the Jonesville Historical Society already were working on a steering committee to oversee the heritage learning center project, including fundraising efforts needed to make it possible. “Hopefully, we’ll finish that next week,” she said. “We’ve already got quite a few people lined up who are willing to work on it.”

Two weeks from now, Wolfe said an independent inspector will go through the building to assess damages and make recommendations for repairs and renovations needed. Some of them are visible, she said, and some are not.

Once the steering committee receives a report from the inspector, Wolfe said members committee will review it with Jonesville Town Manager Scott Buffkin and at least one or two council members.

Jonesville Town Council members agreed at their meeting on Monday to prepare a three-year lease for review with center organizers at their next meeting on the second Monday in August.

Wolfe said center organizers began discussing Friday what items could be moved from the town’s now overcrowded History Center to the old town hall. “We have no place now for people to sit for a committee meeting there,” she said.

Other items that might be moved, Wolfe said, are an old spinning wheel and quilts that could be showcased in shadowboxes at the heritage center. Among them is the winner of the very first North Carolina Quilting Bee.

Kathy Chaffin may be reached at 336-258-4058.

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