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Swannanoa Valley Museum Honors Harriet Styles

By Dasha Morgan- A major fundraiser for the non-profit Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center was held at the unique Whitemont Lodge on Saturday, May 12 to honor Harriet Styles, a co-founder of the Museum and an active member of the community. This Appalachian Spring Tea was a pre-Mother’s Day event held in two sittings with approximately 50 guests at each. Reservations were needed as the event was sold out. The delicious teatime menu was offered, which included a savory—cheese thins, ham quiche and other savories—Angie’s Cherry Scones, and a choice of sweets, and of course Red Rose’s Original Black Tea as the specialty tea.

Bill Alexander, a member of the Board, gave an introduction, thanking all for attending. He mentioned that Ann Lutz and Carol Tyson spearheaded this event and thanked Nancy Alexander who allowed the use of her beautiful Whitemont Historic Lodge at no cost. Then he spoke.
“Not many communities are lucky enough to have a dedicated history museum – not even Asheville has their own history museum. But here in the Swannanoa Valley we’ve had one since 1989 when a small band of volunteers saw our history being lost. One of these volunteers is the woman we are honoring today for all her contributions – not only to the Museum, but also to the Swannanoa Valley as a whole: Harriet Styles-
“Born in Asheville in 1920, Harriet moved to the Swannanoa Valley in the 1940s when she married Bill Styles. She loved the outdoors and was an avid botanist – her love of nature is reflected in your table decorFrom the beginning, Harriet was very involved in our community — from Girl Scouts to the Tea and Topic Club to the Black Mountain Woman’s Club. And, in 1976, as a member of the Woman’s Club, Harriet helped mount a small local history exhibit for the Fourth of July fair. It was this small exhibit that spurred the initial interest in a permanent museum of Valley history. By the 1980s, plans had been developed for a museum in the former Black Mountain Firehouse. Harriet was asked to help gather artifacts and set up the first exhibits. So Harriet went door to door asking Valley residents for donations of artifacts and pictures – and most of the artifacts that continue to make up the Museum’s Pathways exhibit were gathered during Harriet’s early trips into the community, including a huge assortment of antique farm tools, two early electric washing machines, and a gigantic barn loom that was recently restored. She served for over a decade as the Museum’s volunteer curator and director—often financing the museum’s needs out of her own pocket.
Harriet continued her work with the museum and the community until she passed away on Christmas Eve 2014 at the age of 94. Today, we recognize her and her family (present today – Eloise Styles, Allen and Linda Styles, Jennifer Styles, Tray Shapiro, and Kathleen Byrne) as Harriet was truly the heart and soul of the Swannanoa Valley Museum. There would not be a museum without Harriet’s efforts.
We hope you can come visit us soon and see many of the artifacts Harriet brought into the Museum as well as our new Black Mountain College exhibit. We’re open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 – 5 and we’re still located, as we have been since 1989, in Black Mountain’s Historic Firehouse.
Now, I’d like to introduce our host, Nancy Alexander, who will give you a brief history of the lodge before we eat. Thank you.”
Funds from this event will support Harriet’s efforts at the SVMHC. This active and growing museum has served the western North Carolina community since 1989 and has more than 600 members, who receive email notices of monthly events, a bi-annual newsletter, science on program and events. In addition the Swannanoa Valley Museum has an unusual offering: it hosts hikes year round, so one can learn and know more about the Swannanoa Valley. The Black Mountain Fire House, where the museum is located, was designed and built in 1921 by the renowned architect Richard Sharp Smith and is located at 223 West State Street in downtown Black Mountain.
A unique collection of photos and artifacts from homes and businesses from the Swannanoa Valley area are on display at the Museum. There are permanent exhibits, as well as special exhibitions. The current exhibit to be seen is Black Mountain College and Black Mountain, NC: Where “Town” Meets “Gown.” Black Mountain College was experimental by nature and committed to the arts and an interdisciplinary approach to learning. The college is most often remembered for attracting many of America’s leading visual artists, composers, poets and designers like Buckminster Fuller, Josef and Anni Albers, Merce Cunningham, Jonathan Williams, and John Case. The College is known by many throughout the United States, and there are many books on the college. This exhibit was put together in partnership with Appalachian State University.
Last year the museum featured a fascinating and well attended exhibit on the life and works of Rafael Guastavino and his son, who are known for their unique tile domes and vaults and once lived in the area. The exhibit Palaces For the People: Guastavino and America’s Great Public Spaces traveled to many places after the showing in Black Mountain including Washington, DC, and New York City. For more information or to join this 501c3 non profit, go to

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