Reuniting, 3 decades on

During her years teaching at Burroughs School, Catherine Causey developed an appreciation of the historic Conway building, now home to the Horry County Museum.

She also said she recalls defending the building from criticism leveled by a colleague four decades ago.

“I liked everything about this building – even the stinky bathroom,” said the 97-year-old Causey, while attending the museum’s Friday open house for Burroughs alumni.

Causey was one of perhaps 100 former Burroughs students and faculty members who turned out to celebrate the $6.4 million restoration of the new home of the museum.

Museum director Walter Hill said most of the walls and wooden floors of the building, originally opened in 1905, were much the same as four decades ago – only a lot cleaner and brighter. The goal, he said, was to maintain the integrity of the building as it had been used.

“It’s wonderful,” said Causey. “It’s different. I’m thankful that the city has maintained it so well over the years.”

With a spectacular aquarium installed below a spiral staircase, the renovation was completed last week with Animal Planet cable channel shooting footage for an episode of “Tanked,” expected to run late in the summer.

Hill said the vertically-shaped aquarium symbolizes the importance of the Waccamaw River to the development of the county.

The museum had a “soft opening” without the aquarium in November, but Friday’s visit was the first visit for most of the guests since the renovations were completed.

The Grand Opening, including ribbon cutting, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Main Street landmark. About 150 people attended Thursday’s VIP reception.

The museum will be open to the public from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission is free.

“This building means so much to the community,” said Hill. “The people here seem to be enjoying it.”

The building last housed students in 1977, then was used for county offices. At one time, students from grades 1 through 12 were taught at the site.

Rooms on the first floor will be home to a series of changing exhibits. Permanent exhibits with engaging photos filled with Horry County history, are housed upstairs. The upstairs room, serving as a place for people to gather and share memories, this weekend will be used for children’s activities.

The old school auditorium, with its large stage, theater seats and balcony is ready for a schedule of Saturday events, and also will be free to the public. The first event, a presentation on snakes, will be held on May 31.

Walls painted in light colors give the building, with its high ceilings, large windows and shiny new floors a new energy.

“It’s a lot lighter and it’s nice,” said Chip Hyman, whose four years as an elementary school student in the building included “scary years” with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. “We thought the teachers would protect us.”

“I think it’s nicer than it was when it was a school,” said Ann Winfield, a former eighth- and ninth-grade teacher, now in her early 90s. “I didn’t go in the fall – I wanted them to finish it before I went. It’s wonderful.”