Traditions Old and New

By Kelly Hargett

For more than 4 weeks, during the hottest days of the summer of 2018, Harold Denny and his assistant laid each stone by hand in the foundation of the new tobacco barn exhibit at The Kernersville Museum. The result is beautiful. A true master of his craft, Harold and his boss, Steven Cole wanted to ensure that this project was exceptional. They have not disappointed. After the stone was laid, logs from the original barn were painstakingly added, one by one, followed by a tin roof that shows signs of years of age. As a result, located right in the heart of Downtown Kernersville, we have a working Tobacco Barn. An exhibit meant to pay homage to those who spent their days and years growing tobacco here in Kernersville.

It took more than a year to raise the money for the Tobacco Barn Restoration Project. The barn, donated to The Museum by John & Bobbie Wolfe, was built by Bernard Atkins in the 1930’s. He had more than 80 acres of tobacco farm land located about a mile and half from Downtown Kernersville. Like all tobacco farmers of his time, Bernard had barns located on his property to cure the tobacco grown on his land. Around the 1950’s, it is estimated that more than 500,000 tobacco barns dotted the landscape of North Carolina. However, with advances in agricultural science, the need for those individual barns fell by the wayside while the barns themselves began to deteriorate and disappear.

Tobacco built our roads, hospitals, and universities in North Carolina. For many families, tobacco kept a roof over their heads and food in their bellies. For the Kernersville Museum, preserving a local tobacco barn was the perfect way to honor Kernersville’s past. Many people living in Kernersville remember spending long hot summers working in tobacco fields. A labor-intensive crop, many farmers relied on their families or help from neighbors to get their fields worked during the season and when harvest time

This tradition of bringing the community closer together is what we hope to honor with our new exhibit. We cannot wait to share this experience with everyone in Kernersville. We want this to be an exhibit that allows us to teach future generations what our local past looked like, what it felt like, even what it smelled like! Traditional farming tools will be located inside the barn, as well as stories and pictures of local farmers who grew tobacco in Kernersville.

While many of you will be taking a stroll down memory lane in our tobacco barn, we hope you and your family and friends will start making new memories right here at the Museum with our new synthetic ice-skating rink. This year we will transform our back yard into a winter wonderland, complete with ice skating,

blinkie lights and enough holiday cheer to make your winter season a memorable one! Funds raised from our ice-skating rink will help the Museum continue to offer free educational programs for our community, free field trips for our local schools, preserve artifacts donated to the Museum, as well as help us to create new exhibits that focus on the special interests of our community.

So, come check out the Kernersville Museum this Holiday Season. Create new traditions at our ice-skating rink with your family while you explore our local history. Ice Skating is $7 for 30 minutes of skate time (includes your skate rental). Skating begins every half hour. Groups of 10 or more will need to call ahead for reservations. Check out our website at for hours of operation. We look forward to becoming a part of your new holiday tradition.

As always, it is free to explore our local history at the Kernersville Museum. We are open Tuesday – Friday, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, and Saturday 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. We are located at 127 West Mountain Street, across from Southwinds Gallery, The Collegiate Shop and Unique Finds & Designs Boutique.

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