Editor’s Note: The following is the fifth in a series of stories highlighting homes and other structures that will be featured during the Highland County Historical Society’s annual Tour of Homes and Historic Buildings on Sunday, June 11 from noon to 5 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. This story features the Highland House Museum owned by the Highland County Historical Society and located at 151 E. Main St., Hillsboro.
The Highland House Museum is an example of classic Federal style architecture. It was built between 1842 and 1844 by Christopher Arthur for Peter Leake Ayres, a native of Jamestown, Va.
After several different owners, the home was purchased in 1882 by Joseph Gaskill. During this time, the building went through many changes including the addition of rooms, closing in of porches, and the conversion into a first class hotel named the Highland House. In 1889, Samuel Parsons Scott and his sister, Jane, purchased the property as an investment. At that time Cary T. Pope, a former sheriff of Highland County, took over the management of the inn. In 1905, the property was acquired by Eugene Zimmerman and for many years the house was operated as a resident hotel by his daughter, Kate Doorley, and later by her daughter, June. Under their management, the Highland House became famous for its food with not only travelers, but the townspeople who came out every Sunday for a traditional family meal.
The Highland House changed hands again in 1964 when Helen Boyd purchased the property. Two years later, the newly formed Highland County Historical Society was able to purchase the Highland House from the Boyd estate.
Now, 15 rooms and four wide halls are arranged to recreate the past. Of special interest is the refurbished Humanities Room devoted to those with a purpose, a passion, and a cause. The Women’s Temperance Crusade of 1873-74 began in Hillsboro and was led by Mrs. Eliza Jane “Mother” Thompson. It laid the foundation for the organization of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The room also features the history of Hillsboro’s Lincoln School, told through photographs, memorabilia, and a moving documentary about the women and children involved in this story of desegregation in Hillsboro. A map of regional Underground Railroad trails is on display as well as a historical timeline border that runs around the top of the walls.
Other exhibits include the Hall of Fame, which honors noted Highland countians for outstanding achievements; a Military Room; a Medical Room; a School Room; the Caspar Collins Room; a Victorian bedroom; the Weaver’s Room; a Victorian nursery; the Pioneer Kitchen; a formal Dining room; a parlor; and a music room.
In addition to permanent displays, there are changing displays featuring items from local collectors. A few items of interest are a mahogany side board owned by Allen Trimble, eighth and 10th governor of Ohio; the surveying instrument use by David Hayes to plan the town of Hillsboro in 1807; and many exceptionally fine oil paintings, including works by Hillsboro native Emma Sayler Detwiler (1848-1933). Of particular note is the life-size portrait of Judge James Henry Thompson painted by James Beard, the well-known artist and father of Daniel Beard, who organized the Boy Scouts of America. Caspar Collins, native son of Hillsboro, served in the military and died a hero in 1865 at age 20 in a battle with the Indians at the Platte Bridge in what is now Wyoming. Casper, Wyoming was named in honor of Caspar Collins. (Fort Collins, Colo. was named in honor of his father, Col. Wm. O. Collins.) A watercolor of the Platte Bridge, believed to have been painted by Collins, is a featured item in the society’s collection.
Along with all of the history, there is also a meeting room at the museum which is available to rent for receptions, parties, meetings or gatherings. It is a lovely setting for such an event. And finally, there is the Museum Gift Shop. It has a great collection of books by local authors, artwork and crafts by local artisans, items that harken back to “the good old days,” items of local interest, and antiques. The shop is open each weekend throughout the museum season (May to December) with a widely expanded artisan area opening the first weekend of November.
The Highland County Historical Society is happy to be collaborating with the Brush & Palette Guild in an effort to raise awareness of their talents and to help them promote their 60th show and sale at Southern State Community College in Hillsboro Saturday and Sunday, June 24-25. The historical society is featuring artwork of the homes or buildings on the tour at each of the sites. By attending the tour, you will have an opportunity to see some work created by these talented artists and talk with them about their organization and upcoming event. Mary Braun will be the featured artist at the Highland House Museum.
Submitted by Avery Applegate, Highland County Historical Society.