Smyth County Museum

Photo: Marian Academy/Desmond House – Smyth County Historical Society Archives

Marion Academy/Desmond House Building:

The Smyth County Museum & Historical Society was founded in 1961 by citizens who saw a need in preserving and protecting our local history. In looking for a place to house the museum, society members petitioned the bank to donate a building that was scheduled to be demolished to make room for a parking lot. That building was located on a corner of Church and Strother Street in Downtown Marion and was originally built as a one room school house by the county school trustees in 1838. After the schoolhouse was abandoned due to the need for a larger education space, the structure became a home and was used for a variety of other purposes.

After the building was donated to the Smyth County Museum and Historical Society, it had to be moved across down to a piece of land near Marion Senior High School. The museum and historical Society operated at this location for many years. The building was demolished in 2023 by Smyth County Schools due to advanced deterioration and safety concerns.

Photo: Staley/Collins House – Smyth County Historical Society Archives

Staley/Collins House

The Staley/Collins House was one of the many places that housed the Smyth County Museum and Historical Society through the years. The Victorian Era house was built in 1909 by Mr.B. H. Baylor and was sold to H. B. Staley and family. The house remained in the family until 1998 when it was given to the Historical Society. It is now a private residence.

Parks Belk Department Store Building (Current Home of the Smyth County Museum)

In 1940, Beattie Gwyn purchased property containing the 1871 Christ Episcopal Church (pictured below) from church trustees as the site for a new Parks Belk department store building. The church was demolished and the new building was completed in 1941 with an addition to the rear of the being added later. In the mid-2010s, the Smyth County Historical Society purchased the building from the Gwyn family and began moving the museum’s collections from the Staley/Collins and the 1908 Marion Grammar School to their new home. The Smyth County Museum & Historical Society remains in this building today.

Then & Now

Interior of Parks-Belk Departments Store Addition
View of the interior of the building today.

History of the 1871 Christ Episcopal Church

Photo: 1871 Christ Episcopal Church – Smyth County Historical Society Archives

The 1871 Christ Episcopal Church was a small brick church building situated right in the center of Downtown Marion. It is said that Queen Victoria, after receiving a letter from local attorney James H. Gilmore, donated a large sum of money to help with the church’s construction. The church was demolished (pictured below) in 1940 after being purchased by Beattie Gwyn who planned to build a new department store on the site. The church’s congregation moved to a new location on West Main Street and built a new church building.