More than 100 people attended the grand opening of The Douglas County Museum of History and Arts in downtown Douglasville Friday, about 15 years after several local residents saved the ‘50s style building from sale or demolition.

Though the museum has been in operation for years, it was only open for four hours on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Thanks to an increase in hotel/motel tax, the county was able to use more money for tourism and it hired four part-time employees to run the museum.

“The commissioners have long wanted to be able to fund the museum, which to date has been totally funded by donations and staffed by volunteers,” said Wes Tallon, director of communications and community relations for the county. “One of the goals of increasing the hotel/motel tax was to be able to open the museum five days a week.”

Featuring more than 200 exhibits, some new and revamped, the museum and new tourism center will be open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tuesday - Friday, and 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Staff and volunteers will be there during all open hours, Tallon said. Admission is free.

In the past, the museum’s operations have been governed by the Old Courthouse, Inc., a nonprofit incorporated by a group of Douglas County citizens who made an effort to save the old courthouse from sale and/or demolition.

“The Old Courthouse, Inc., group was who applied and received National Register of Historic Places designation for the building, citing its very unique and disappearing style of architecture,” Tallon said. “The County BOC also created the Douglas County Tourism and History Commission a few years ago to work alongside the Old Courthouse, Inc., and be the involved arm of county government.”

The county’s first courthouse, built in 1870, was a small building. It was replaced by a slightly larger building soon thereafter, which reportedly fell apart.

In 1898 a Victorian style brick “Old Courthouse” was built but it burned in what witnesses called a spectacular fire, Tallon said. Some county offices have gradually migrated back to the old courthouse since the space was available and the county continued to grow in population and services. Rooms in the old courthouse are used for DUI and GED classes, and the downtown precinct votes there.

Friday afternoon, Linda and Steve Hampton, of Douglasville, toured around the museum’s exhibits and stopped to study a painting of what Groover’s Lake in Lithia Springs once looked like.

“They had these little speed boats and they had some sail boats,” Steve Hampton said, reminiscing on his days as a youngster. “You’d get to riding with your girlfriend and you could ride around the lake for 50 cents. That was a lot of money back then! ... We’d ride around over there and lay out in the sun over here. The lake is still there.”

Linda Hampton said she received a special invitation to the museum’s opening through her garden club and wanted to come check it out.

“(The museum) is very different,” Hampton said. “You can tell it’s been uplifted and refurbished.”

Contact Laura Corley by email at laura@douglascountysentinel.com or by phone at 770-942-6571 ext. 233.

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