When the Museum of the Berkeley Springs opens for the season on Saturday, May 23, visitors can see the latest exhibit for the first time.
More than a year in the making, the exhibit features the art and life of 19th century resident, David Hunter Strother. The exhibit displays 22 of Strother’s drawings featuring Berkeley Springs characters and scenes including a special section on his illustrated story “The Bearskin.”
The Museum will open Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the time being. Hours will be expanded as circumstances allow.
There are more than a dozen other exhibits in the Museum including Bathhouses, Formation of the Town, Fires, Geology, James Rumsey and Hotels. George Washington images and mini-exhibits are scattered throughout the exhibit hall. Prized artifacts are a 400 lb. silica crystal from the local sand mine and the original Bath Trustees Minutes from 1812-1871.
Strother served as Secretary of the Trustees for nearly 20 years keeping minutes in his distinctive handwriting.
The new Strother exhibit was developed in response to a generous grant from the William Strother Society.
“We had longed to upgrade the minor exhibit we had on David Hunter Strother but needed funding,” said Jeanne Mozier, Museum President. She researched and developed the exhibit. “As the exhibit states, he was the most famous illustrator and travel writer of the 19th century, known to millions as Porte Crayon. And there is no doubt he was the most illustrious resident and landowner since George Washington.”
The timeline of Strother’s life highlights both his many accomplishments including serving as a General in the Union Army and Consul to Mexico as well as his adventures and explorations anchored in Berkeley Springs where his father, John Strother, built and operated the famed Berkeley Springs Hotel.
One of the most striking features of the exhibit is the near life-size cut-out of a local Rankin, mountaineer. Strother wrote in 1872 that he “saw Rankin and sketched his portrait — one of the best I have made.”
Mozier said it was a bonus to have the exhibit be completed during the Bicentennial year since Strother was so significant in early Morgan County history.
“We were happy to have our favorite exhibit developers, Jackie Woodcock and Hopewell Manufacturers, back to design and fabricate the exhibit,” she said.
Images are from the Strother Collection at WVU Library.
The Museum of the Berkeley Springs is located on the second floor of the 1820 Roman Bath House in Berkeley Springs State Park. For more information call 304-258-3738 or check Museum of the Berkeley Springs website and Facebook page.