Farragut Museum still in ‘friend’ biz

About 30 years ago, Farragut-area resident Mary Nell McFee wallpapered inside a closet of her living room — with old newspapers. Then she took the closet door off. That way, a very important desk, a desk she had purchased from an Admiral David Farragut collector, would be on display.

“It was the mid-1980s and the Town of Farragut had just barely gotten started,” said Concord native Doris Woods Owens when Gov. Lamar Alexander announced Tennessee Homecoming celebration in the summer of 1986. And the Town of Farragut wanted to be involved.

“The Town was interested in it,” Owens said, “and asked Mary Nell to head up something. I don’t know if she was the one who came up with the idea of a museum, or if it was her and Mayor Bob Leonard, but she asked me to help her.”

“We made out a committee and asked other people to help, including Mac and Frances Able,” Owens said about that very first temporary display in the summer of 1986.

The first donation was the desk from McFee’s living room closet. Then the two women turned to their friends for museum items.

In 1989 the first permanent Farragut Folklike Museum opened in the old dairy building [formerly Doggy Daycare] behind the Campbell-Russell House, Owens said.

The museum now is housed at Farragut Town Hall. Museum personnel and volunteers are turning to “friends” for donations, labeled “Friends of the Museum.”

Back in the 1980s, the newly formed town voted to spend $10,000 on its first Admiral Farragut collection, Owens said. Mary Nell McFee and Mayor Leonard and his wife, Marie, [brought] the items home. Not too long after, the Town voted to purchase about another $60,000 worth of the collection.

Julia Barham, museum Historic Resources coordinator, said she’s been pleased with the changes to the Friends of the Museum program made in 2016. She talked recently about the revamp and the recent creation of the new Corporate Friends program.

“We have about 90 Friends,” she said. “We have 20 Lifetime Friends and two Corporate Friends — Knoxville TVA Credit Union and Christian Brothers Automotive — for over 100 Friends.”

Money from the membership fees is still being used to add to the Admiral Farragut collection.

“Because we’re part of the Town of Farragut and in this building, we don’t pay utilities, so the money goes directly to the museum,” she said. “A few years ago, there was an auction of Admiral Farragut items and we used some of our money to buy the drum, a panel out of his cabin and an ammunition box. We have one of the biggest Admiral Farragut collections in the country even though we’re a small museum.”

Friend levels range from $10 to $500-plus. The first level is Contributor for $25 a year [students can join for $10]. Contributors receive a quarterly online newsletter, are invited to members-only exhibit previews and receive notification of special events. Level two is Sustainer for $50 a year. These receive all the perks of Contributors plus a listing in museum’s annual report.

Level three is Patron for $100 a year. Patrons receive a welcome gift and an additional public listing by name in the museum and a meet-and-greet with special guests. Level four is Grand Patron for $250 a year. Grand Patrons receive a personal museum tour and have their names listed in the newspaper.

Level five is Benefactor for $500 or More a year. They receive an additional one-time 30 percent discount on a total purchase in the gift shop and special recognition in the museum.

“We had a garage in the dairy building behind the old Campbell-Russell House. They put up pegboards and we borrowed tables from churches.

“It turned out great. In just three weeks we had big crowds and it was so successful that Mayor Leonard asked us if we’d go on two more weeks. As soon as we’d given everything back, they said we needed a permanent museum. In ‘86 they asked us to make it permanent, but they didn’t have a place to put us. When we did open, it was July 4, ’89, I believe. Oh, what a crowd! At about the center of that same dairy building, we had a little office. We put things in there and in part of the big meeting room. What was so funny is that in order for people to see things, we decided 10 at a time could go in.”

The museum is now a three-room, square foot space

To join online, go to http://www.townoffarragut.org/DocumentCenter/View/3061. For more information, call the Town Hall at 865-966-7057.