Belhaven is a town located in the inner bank region of North Carolina. It is nicknamed the ‘beautiful harbor'. As a result of its close proximity to the ocean, this town of 2,000 people has no shortage of fishermen and farmers.
This town is also home to the intriguing Belhaven memorial museum, which is known to many as the world’s most spine-chilling museum, due to the nature of its exhibits.
Belhaven Museum is a modest and unique building located at the heart of Belhaven; it is housed on the second floor of the Town hall. The hall in itself is a monument in the history and culture of the town, and just like the museum, it is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Belhaven Memorial Museum is non-profit, and as a result, is not heavily funded. This makes it easier to understand why it has no air conditioning. However, the appeal has never been the comfort offered while sightseeing; it is more about the portal to the past that it opens.
This iconic monument owes the most part of its existence to one woman – Mary Eva Blount (1869-1962) and the original collection she gathered, which commenced the operations of the museum.
It all began with a collection of buttons that Mary got from her mother in-law; a collection that grew to 30,000 buttons. These buttons are currently on display in the museum. Mary, being an ardent collector began accumulating items of substance and essence. She soon had a variety of treasures including Christmas memorabilia, toys and dolls, the finest china, period clothing, farm tools, natural specimen, and abnormalities.
It didn’t take long before she was renowned for exploits. Donations teemed in from friends, neighbors, and others who wanted to help her build her collection.
In 1940, at the height of World War II, Mary decided to raise funds for the Red Cross. To this cause, she exhibited her collection in her home at a small fee. The initiative was an instant success and the items had to be moved to her barn where over 10,000 items were showcased.
After her death in 1962 at the age of 93 , the residents of Belhaven purchased her collection of treasures and found a new home for them at the original Belhaven Town Hall which is no longer in use. On April 1, 1965, the Belhaven museum officially opened on the second floor of the edifice. To date, this has been their home.
The buttons which, at first, could be contained in a small box grew in number and are now more than 30 000 in number. Furthermore, there are different types of buttons like the celluloids, bakelites, lucites, vegetable ivory, metal buttons, glass buttons, bone buttons, mother of pearl shell and fabric-covered buttons.
On display are antique potato planters, sickles, shovels and trowels washed away by time itself. Most of them were donated by people from all over the world
There are different Christmas cards, ornaments and ceramic decorations displayed in the museum. Beautiful hand written notes are also preserved
Nineteenth-century dolls had a common feature of being made with porcelain and wood and in the collection are different types of dolls that existed during that period, some of types include Chinese porcelain dolls, bisque dolls and parian dolls
Displayed are Victorian and colonial era dresses that were the trending fashion of her time including jewelries, blouses, gloves and hats.
Belhaven Memorial Museum is known to contain quite a number of oddities that would make most people squirm. It is also known to display uncommon items that easily showcase the rich culture and artistry of the 19th Century. Some of these items include:
The museum is declared as a non-profit oriented museum, whose objective is to collect and preserve historical and cultural artifacts. It also aims to encourage interest and support of art, science, and history. Donations are greatly appreciated, with options for tax-deductible donations to maintenance and upkeep of the museum..
The collection is ever-growing because donations of items still flow in from all over the world. Today, these treasures are still displayed in the town hall of Beaufort County. Visitors and tourists are accepted into the museum everyday from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm UTC, except on Wednesdays. Admission is free for all and donations are appreciated, for emphasis. The museum also sells local cookbooks containing some cooking recipes of Mrs. Blount.
It is quite easy to understand why this museum is listed on Atlas Obscura as a destination worth visiting. Atlas Obscura describes this museum as “a monument to the sheer amount of oddities one can collect over time” here.
The museum is one of North Carolina’s most revered monuments, with its unrelenting ability to give a glimpse into the everyday life of the 19th century. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Be sure to refer back to our complete list of other sites and attractions across Eastern North Carolina in our main article here: The Historic Albemarle Trail.