Westville relocation to Columbus may be getting closer - WRBL

Westville relocation to Columbus may be getting closer

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Stewart County, Ga. -

The Historic Westville Living Museum has been the heart of Stewart County for the past 47 years.

To many residents, like Sara Singer, who's lived in Stewart County since 1958, things would be different without it.

"My children grew up here and it was a huge part of their childhood," says Singer. "I can't imagine what it would be like here without it."

Singer, a former Westville board member, is still clinging on to the hope that Westville will stay, but she recognizes the board trying to do what's best for the future of Westville. 

"It really takes a lot of money to do this and [Westville's] finances are limited," says Singer. "We appreciate the board trying to make plans to keep it going, it's just hard to face that it won't be here. 

The Westville Board says they have been exploring alternative sties to relocate the living museum. The board says they've "been struggling in recent years to attract a critical mass of visitors to support the site financially."

Attendance has been declining since reaching its peak in the 1988-89 fiscal year at 49,452 visitors. Last year, the living museum drew 13,142 visitors. 

The board says they've been looking to relocate to "a jurisdiction with the population and tourism that would financially support its mission." They believe they've found that with Columbus. Some disagree with this notion and believe it would be toxic for Westville to move.

"If you snatch it up out of the earth and take it to a foreign environment, it's not going to prosper," says Mac Moye, another former Westville board member and resident of Stewart County for over 50 years.

Moye doesn't think Westville would succeed in Columbus and uses poor attendance at the current Columbus museums as an example. 

"Look at the outstanding museums Columbus has and the poor attendance those museums have," says Moye. "People aren't supporting it, so what makes them think people are going to support Westville if it gets up there? It's just preposterous. "

With the money they're using to relocate, he believes they could restart it where it is, in an environment where it is appropriate to the theme of the place.

Another option Moye gives is to archive the museum until the board comes up with a new strategy. He says with a $7-million endowment, it's an option no one wants, but is preferable to what's on the table now.

The Columbus City Council is voting on Tuesday whether to enter into an agreement with Historic Westville. What's being voted on is a memorandum of understanding, which means an agreement between the two parties wouldn't result in an official move, but reserve a plot of land for Westville to move to if they decide to relocate.

The agreement would authorize conveyance of approximately 35 acres of property, formerly known as the Orchard Grove Mobile Home Park, to Westville to locate the Living History Museum and the lease of two tracts of land for economic development and recreational purposes.

The land is in the Oxbow Meadows area off South Lumpkin Road.


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