For as long as most people can remember, the Village of Yesteryear has been housed in the circular building with the white roof adjacent to Heritage Circle. It’s within the walls of the Holshouser Building that you not only observe working artists demonstrating heritage crafts, but purchase the art for yourself.
For all 65 years, the mission of the Village of Yesteryear has remained the same: Teaching heritage craftsmanship, demonstrating skills and educating the public. Mary Cornwell, a former extension agent for Cherokee and Haywood counties, was the Village of Yesteryear’s first director and served for 38 years. Below is her account of how the Village of Yesteryear got its start:
“In August of 1951, J.S. Dorton, manager of the N.C. State Fair, and Howard Clapp, superintendent of the Mountain Research Station, came into my office in Waynesville. After a few words of greetings, Dr. Dorton exclaimed ‘M.C., you are going to organize our educational department of the N.C. State Fair and bring several of the mountain craftsmen to the fair in October and have them demonstrate their skills and talents.’ This suggested assignment was a shock and a surprise and I began hesitating.”
However, by October of that year, Cornwell had lined up 13 craftsmen and women to come to the fair. These 13 became the original members of the Village of Yesteryear. The crafters include a wooden bowl marker, Cherokee heritage crafters, pewter cross maker, honeysuckle basket makers and weavers of corn shuck chair bottoms.
The first building to house the Village was the old Hobbies and Handicrafts building, which was torn down earlier this year.
In 1975, the Village of Yesteryear was moved into the Holshouser Building and increased to 100 crafters from all over North Carolina and the surrounding area. Pam Earp, current Village of Yesteryear superintendent, encourages the craftsmen and craftswomen to continue their educational mission. She has also worked to add even more educational components by reaching out to home-schoolers and other school groups.
Check out the gallery below to see a few current artists in the Village of Yesteryear, and be sure to stop by and wish them a happy birthday. Do you have a favorite crafter? Let us know in the comments.