2018-11-09 / Front Page

The Olympia-Granby Mill Village Museum to open November 16

The Olympia-Granby Mill Village Museum will hold a grand opening ceremony Friday, November 16 at 1 p.m. at its location, 1170 Olympia Avenue. Photo by Josh Cruse The Olympia-Granby Mill Village Museum will hold a grand opening ceremony Friday, November 16 at 1 p.m. at its location, 1170 Olympia Avenue. Photo by Josh Cruse Jake and Sherry Jaco have visited hundreds of small town museums during their years traveling the country. They always dreamed Olympia would have to commemorate the mill village.

On Friday, November 16 that dream will become a reality as the Olympia- Granby Mill Village Museum will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. at 1170 Olympia Avenue.

Jake and Sherry set out on their dream to open an Olympia museum in 2013. At first they thought all they would have to do is set up the museum and people would come. However, as they embarked on the process, they soon figured out there was a lot more involved with opening a museum.

When they met with Robin Waites of the Historic Columbia Foundation, she asked the Jacos what story they wanted the museum to tell. That gave them something to ponder.

“I have always wanted to tell the story of living in Olympia,” Jake said. “Once you get into it more, it’s really hard to do because you can’t capture it; you have to grow up in it. Trying to tell an outsider about it is not easy to do. Hopefully, some of this will help them understand.”

One of the first tasks the Jacos had to undertake was applying for non-profit status. They met with Jobi Castine of the Olympia Community Education Foundation. The foundation agreed to be a fiscal sponsor, especially until the Jacos could obtain the nonprofit status.

Jake and Sherry also began taking pledges and went to the Richland County Conservation Commission for funding help. They were then directed to the Richland County community development office. With the help of both Richland County offices, the Jacos were able to fund the purchase of the property for the museum.

There was a slight issue with getting the location... the house already had an owner. Roy Greene purchased the property two-and a-half years before being approached by the Jacos in February 2014. At the time, Greene wanted to rent the house to USC students. When the Jacos approached Greene about buying the property, Greene was considering whether to find more money to repair the house or sell it.

The Jacos were able to convince Greene of the latter, and the home of the Olympia-Granby Mill Village Museum was selected. As an added bonus, the house was at the location of the original Olympia School, which opened in 1901.

Once the location was chosen and purchased, it was time for the Jacos to receive those pledges. Sherry said she was told to expect only about 40 percent of the pledges she had received. To date, the Jacos have received 99 percent, raising over $100,000.

Further work involved grant writing, applying to get the house on the historical registry, and hiring an architect and general contractor.

After nearly five years of work, the Jacos are seeing the end of the process in sight. However, as one process is nearing its conclusion, another is just beginning. While a lot of work has been done to the two-story house, an equal amount of time has gone into designing the look of the museum.

There are a number of areas the Jacos want to cover in the museum. Among is the architecture of a mill house. They have designed a room as a replica of a room in the original school house.

They also want to document the history of Olympia. Sherry has often heard outsiders’ opinion of mill villages as places where mill owners oppressed their workers. She said often times they are surprised when those who lived in the villages recall fond memories.

She wants the museum to tell the story of sharecroppers in the early 1900s looking for a better way of life. The mill villages often provided a steady job and a nice house. Her mother’s family were sharecroppers. They moved to Olympia in the late 1920s. For her family, moving to Olympia was a step up.

“That is the essence of what we are trying to capture, what a good life it was for the people who were there,” Sherry said. “Did they have to work hard? Absolutely. Did they have to toe the line? Absolutely. But in doing so they were able to create a whole new idea for a better life for their children.”

The Jacos have received support from many people, not just financially but in terms of artifacts. People have sent them anything from a school bell to a Doffers key, which was used to change the bobbins in the machines.

“It has been a surprise, but yet it hasn’t been,” Sherry said.

The Jacos have received so many artifacts, they say the content of the museum will change at least once or twice a year. Staci Richey, who Sherry has helped bring awareness for Randolph Cemetery, has helped by writing 40 pages of content.

The support has extended to volunteers. Once the museum is open, it will be run by volunteers. The Jacos have worked with the museum history department at USC and formed a coalition with some of the students.

“We’ve had tons of support, not only from the Lintheads, but from other people who have joined our team,” Sherry said. “Our name is out there, but we have a huge group of people who are helping us. We don’t want to take all the credit because its been a group process.”

Once the museum is open, it will operate Friday through Sunday. Friday and Saturday it will be open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 p.m to 4 p.m. On USC gamedays, the museum will be closed. The Jacos will also allow school groups, especially those from third and seventh grade, to tour the museum during the week. Appointments are also welcome.

Return to top