Walking Horse Museum on the move by May 1

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Tennessee Walking Horse Museum in Lynchburg is in a building that's been made available to the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville and the landlord wants the building vacated this spring, two top Celebration officials said.

"Jack Daniel's wants the building back," Celebration Board Chairman Henry Hulon said Wednesday in his Musgrave Pencil Co. office in Shelbyville. A decision must be made soon because the lease expires in May. The Celebration Board has sought proposals and a subcommittee is ready to review them.

"We do not have a concrete proposal at this time," Hulon continued. "I think everyone is looking to see where it would be a good fit. We'd like it to be somewhere where there's decent exposure to keep it up and current."

Officials of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association (TWHBEA) headquartered here on Ellington Parkway were notified some two months ago about the need to move memorabilia and documents associated with the museum, Hulon and Dr. Doyle Meadows, executive director of the Celebration, said Wednesday.

That opportunity became more publicly known Tuesday afternoon when it was mentioned during a Lewisburg Planning Commission meeting in City Hall where there was extensive discussion on what to do with the old Murray horse farm property purchased by the city three years ago this month. It's seen as an opportunity for Lewisburg, according to discussions among senior and former leaders of the community.

Beyond notification of the TWHBEA leaders, Celebration authorities have at least two other prospective locations for the artifacts.

One is The Fly Arts Center, a museum and entertainment venue in Shelbyville, Meadows said. The other is "people in Wartrace," he said.

"A lot of the breed registries have a museum at the registry," Meadows said in a telephone interview after noting that TWHBEA was contacted in January.

He expressed understanding of the position taken by the distillery.

"As all companies have done, they're tightening their belts," Meadows said in a reference to the economic conditions that have affected the nation. "They had, effectively, given us that facility for a number of years rent free."

Now, the lease is about to expire and the Celebration leaders acknowledged that something must be done before that.

"There's a good bit of stuff over there," Hulon said of the museum's resources in Lynchburg. "There's more pictures and papers than anything else, more than saddles and bridles - a ton of paper.

"As far as doing anything in the immediate future, I think it would be best for somebody to store it and perhaps go through it," the Celebration Board chairman said.

Discussion during Lewisburg's Planning Commission meeting indicated some speculation that the artifacts might best - perhaps most symbolically - stored in the stone building on East Commerce Street that previously served as TWHBEA headquarters.

The Celebration Board is scheduled to meet on Thursday.

Moving the museum's contents to the Celebration grounds appears to be impossible, Hulon said.

"We could set up some stalls for it, but you'd want to protect the contents from temperature extremes," Hulon said.