GREENVILLE — The Garst House has seen a lot of history pass through its doors, and across its grounds, in the last 165 years. Located at 205 North Broadway St in Greenville, the house was built by George Coover in 1852, and originally operated as an inn. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 16, 1977.
The first Darke County Fair was held on Coover’s property in 1853, before the event moved to a new location on Chestnut St, and finally to the current fairgrounds in 1873. The house was acquired by the Garst family in 1861 or ‘62, then donated to the Ohio Historical Society in 1949. It now serves as home to the Darke County Historical Society’s Garst Museum and National Annie Oakley Center.
“The Garst House is our main entrance to the museum,” Dr. Clay Johnson, president and CEO of the Darke County Historical Society, said. “When you walk in and see that beautiful, winding staircase, and that parlor with the old fireplace, it really gives you a sense of history.”
The Darke County Historical Society took over the property in the 1970’s. Johnson said that even something as simple as poking around in the basement can be an interesting experience when working in a historic old home like Garst.
“The house has this beautiful old period basement, with a lot of little nooks and crannies,” Johnson said. “We’ve never found any hidden treasure, unfortunately, but for people who enjoy history and antiques, it’s a fascinating place to go looking around in.”
The beauty of the stately old house and grounds, Johnson said, is something he enjoys being able to appreciate on a daily basis.
“The Garst House, with the surrounding landscape and all the other beautiful homes on Broadway – I think it really stands out and looks very striking,” Johnson said. “As someone who loves old homes, it’s wonderful to be able to drive into work and see that every day.”
And the image of the house is more than just a pleasing sight for Johnson and the property’s other workers and volunteers.
“The image of the Garst House is our icon,” Johnson said. “We use it in a lot of our brochures and promotional materials. I think it’s a big part of what draws people to the museum.”
Johnson also highlighted the good fortune in the Garst family choosing to donate the property.
“The generosity of the Garst family in donating the house is really symbolic of the support the museum has always gotten from the community,” Johnson said. “If I was an heir and had a house like this in my family, I’d probably be tempted to move in and live in it myself! So we’re very grateful for that.”
Johnson is a long-time explorer of old houses, barns, and other historic structures, and said he is happy to be part of the cause of preserving these symbols of local history.
“One of the most consistent positive comments we get about the museum is how well kept the house is,” Johnson said. “It’s heartbreaking to see the deterioration of historical structures, be it a home, an old barn, a bridge, or a place of business. I think preserving these places is an important part of keeping our history alive.”
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