The chairman of Westville’s executive board, Tripp Blankenship, said a location could be chosen within six months. An 80-acre site near the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus is a possible location, along with Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta, board members said.
Historic Westville is located 40 miles south of Columbus. The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports that the 87-acre site has 30 period structures and 10 staff members who demonstrate life in the 1850s and beyond. Many of the structures were moved from Jonesboro, Ga., in the 1960s, former board chairman Billy Winn said.
Annual attendance peaked at 49,452 in fiscal 1989 and dropped to 13,142 last year. The executive director of Westville, Leo Goodsell, attributed the decline to higher gas prices and schools cutting back on field trips.
“It’s to the point where you have to ask yourself, if we’ve got a nice museum, but nobody sees it, what can we do about that? That’s exactly what is driving the whole process,” board member Andy Moye said.
Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson confirmed that the leadership of Historic Westville has reached out to the city. “We’re interested in the possibility of Westville possibly moving to Columbus, but certainly not leaving the region,” she said.
Moye said it would take a fundraising effort to finance a move. He said it could take about $3 million and at least a year to move the buildings, and it could take $7 million more to set up an endowment to operate the museum.
“I think that is the barrier to taking it to the trustees to make a decision,” he said.