CONWAY — Jim Vaught is about as native as you get in Horry County.
The first two of his line to settle here came from Germany and put down roots in 1683, he said Tuesday while standing in the first floor hallway of the old Burroughs School.
Vaughts wife, Florence, was one of the stalwarts whose determination and perseverance transformed the 1905 building into what will soon become the new Horry County Museum.
Its sort of a dream fulfilled, Jim Vaught, a retired U.S. Army general, said of the vast space that will display the treasures and troves of Horry County history.
He said it will give residents and visitors the tools to appreciate the importance that the four Ts -- tar, timber, tobacco and turpentine -- played in making the place what it is today. With the Conway Library next door, he said, people first can read about the history first and then tour the museum to see it.
The facility likely wont be open for another four to six months, said museum director Walter Hill, but that seems like a short, easy road to those who have been intimately involved in turning a dream into reality.
Significant foundation problems discovered during the schools renovation set the project back eight months and $1 million, and there were days, said those in the small group in the building Tuesday afternoon,, when it seemed the task would never be done.
But now that the museums original sweetgum floors gleam again and the original wainscotting is revived with fresh paint again, the group could reflect calmly and even humorously on the journey that began long before the renovation started in 2009.
Florence Vaught said that four Conway Rotary members each put $25 in a Conway National Bank account in 1998 as seed money for a foundation to support the county museum. The idea was to let the money sit and gather interest that could one day be used to enhance the museum. In 2000, the Vaughts, attorney John Thompson, the Holliday family of Galivants Ferry, Conway National Bank and the Burroughs Foundation seeded an operating fund for the Foundation.
The Vaughts and others lobbied County Council members on the idea that a new museum would be a good use for the old school and in 2003 to pledge $5 million for the renovation.
Florence Vaught -- then chairwoman of the museum board -- further recruited Conway doctor Hal Holmes to be chairman of the Horry County Museum Foundation, which set a goal to raise $3 million to outfit the museum once the renovation was complete.
To do so, Holmes found he had to transform the Foundation from a body set up to accept donations of artifacts to one that actively sought donations of money.
It takes some plowing, he said of finding donors in an uncertain economy,. It takes work.
Besides landing major donors such as Burroughs & Chapin, Holmes said that thousands of dollars were raised through efforts such as selling some of the buildings bricks, naming rights to seats in the refurbished auditorium and, for $1 each, adoption of nails used in the work.
Because the full goal has not yet been met, museum staff rather than contractors will build at least some of the displays. Further, a childrens exploration gallery is on hold for the time being, but will be the first thing funded when more money is raised.
A museum is never a finished product, Hill said.
The new facility will have five times the exhibit space in the museums long-time home at Main Street and Fifth Avenue, with permanent exhibit galleries on the second floor and those for changing exhibits on the first. A giant, double-helix staircase representing the areas waterways will take most museum goers between floors.
Before Tuesday, Florence Vaught last visited the site when the space that now houses the staircase was a dirt hole at the bottom of a two-story area just inside the front entrance.
The word that came to mind when I walked in (Tuesday) was magnificent, she said.
Im very pleased theyve preserved a historical building, Holmes said.
Both he and Jim Vaught were students there.
Its fantastic, Jim Vaught said. Its a dream come true.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.