60 years of history: Lib Taylor a constant advocate for Rowan Museum
By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — When Mrs. Gettys Guille asked a young Lib Taylor to help out with the annual Salisbury Antique Show that benefits the Rowan Museum, she simply couldn’t turn her down.
At the time, about 30 years ago, Mary Hanford had become ill and Guille needed another hand on deck.
“She asked me if I’d fill in for her, so I’m still filling in,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s father, Ernest Hardin, had served as the president of the museum’s Board of Trustees and her mother was an antique lover, so she seemed to be the perfect fit.
She helped Guille mark and record items as they came in.
“That was my menial job,” she said.
Taylor followed her father’s footsteps, becoming the president of the museum in 1987.
During her tenure, she saw the museum through its acquisition of the old courthouse on Main Street, where the majority of the artifacts are now housed.
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners offered to lease property to the museum for $1 per year for 25 years back in 1997.
“I was nervous about that, I thought what in the world will we do,” she said. “Of course, later the county wanted us to buy it, which I was kind of reluctant about because we had to maintain it.”
But Taylor said it all worked out. The museum has managed to keep up the facility through fundraising and renting out the upstairs for weddings, parties and reunions.
In July 1999, all the general history displays were moved from the Utzman-Chambers House, the museum’s original Jackson Street location, to the old courthouse.
“That dramatically changed the scope of the programs and services of the museum,” said executive director Kaye Brown Hirst. “(Taylor) was president during some really big changes.”
One of those changes was hiring Hirst, the museum’s first paid director, in October 1996.
“I think the smartest thing I ever did was approach Kaye to see if she could come work for the museum,” Taylor said. “I wonder where we would be if we hadn’t had Kaye come in and join our group.”
Back to the start
Taylor said Guille is the real pioneer of the museum.
“She really was the one that got it all going,” she said. “She made it work, I don’t know how, but she did.”
Guille, the museum’s first director, invited six friends to her home on May 12, 1953 to discuss the possibility of preserving the Utzman-Chambers House and establishing a city-county museum there.
During that meeting, the women decided to appear before the Board of Trustees of the Maxwell Chambers Trust to petition for use of the building, which was set to be torn down.
According to Post archives, the idea to open a museum came during Rowan County’s bicentennial celebration earlier that year, when Guille took interest in relics displayed in downtown stores.
Taylor said an architect gave the nod that the structure of the house was still good, but the interior needed an overhaul.
After the group acquired the facility, they started brainstorming ways to make money for the renovations.
“From that came the (Salisbury) Antique Show,” Taylor said. “They decided they had to have the money to restore it, so the women formed this show.”
Taylor has been an active organizer of the antique show since Guille asked her to get involved all those years ago, but it seemed like second nature.
“My mother loved antiques,” she said. “As a child we’d be driving down the road and she’d say ‘There’s an antique shop,’ and my father would put his foot on the gas and drive by.”
But Taylor’s father changed his mind about antiques when he got involved with the museum.
At the time, the board of trustees had decided to purchase the Old Stone House in Granite Quarry for $10,000.
“He liked the idea of fixing up something,” Taylor said. “It was so beat up, it’s a wonder it still existed.
“I remember as a child people would go out there and have picnics and if they wanted to make a fire they would just pull wood off the house and burn it.”
The annual antique show has helped raise money to renovate both the Utzman-Chambers and Old Stone houses.
Those funds also furnished the inside of Utzman-Chambers, which is decorated in the 1819 Federal Period.
“It really is a beautiful building and it’s so beautifully furnished,” Taylor said. “It’s still standing and I hope it will continue to do so.”
Taylor has been involved with the Salisbury Antique Show for so long that she’s seen it hosted at three different locations.
It hopped from one armory location to another before making a more permanent home at the Salisbury Civic Center.
“The old armory served us well for many years and it furnished us with so many good stories,” she said.
Taylor said one of the women in their group became a plunger pro after having to unstop the toilets multiple times during each event.
“We laughed about those things because we couldn’t do anything but laugh,” she said. “We had a lot of crises, but we got through them.”
When the city of Salisbury sent the group a letter asking them to use the newly-opened Civic Center for the show, Taylor said they were “thrilled to death.”
“We’ve used it every year since,” she said.
Taylor was recognized for her work with both the museum and show in November 1999 when the museum board dedicated a garden in Hurley Park to her and late husband, Ed. Their Hobson Street home overlooks the garden.
During the ceremony, Trudy Thompson said called Taylor the “heart and soul” of the antique show, according to Post archives.
The next 60
Taylor said she’s excited to celebrate the Rowan Museum’s 60th anniversary this year.
“We’re hoping it’s going to be a big event for us,” she said. “I think everybody’s trying to get up a lot of enthusiasm.”
Taylor said she’s amazed by the progress the museum has made in six decades.
“I don’t think we ever thought we’d get this far,” she said. “Here we’ve gotten bigger and bigger.
“It’s just fabulous to be able to hold our own and do a little bit more.”
One of the museum’s additions in recent years has been history camp, which is offered to young people each summer.
“They are just fabulous and the just love them,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of young people who have gotten interested in history due to all there is to offer them here.”
Taylor said she’s always been interested in history and she’s glad another generation is cultivating that same appreciation and love.
“When my husband was living, anytime we went anywhere we’d always stop and sight see and we would go into the antique shops,” she said. “We’d drag our three children around and they would hate it.
“Now they love it, so it kind of spilloff on you.”
Taylor said she’s grateful to women like Guille who got the museum off the ground.
“I just can’t imagine us not having it,” she said. “I feel like it’s given so much to so many people and, you know, it’s put them in the mode to love history and want to do more for it.”
In the future, Taylor would like to see the museum acquire more space.
“We have so many great houses in Rowan County,” she said. “We need to keep growing.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.