The Matheson Museum, which is located in Gainesville's old American Legion Hall, preserves and promotes the history of the city, Alachua County, and the surrounding region. Founded in 1944, the museum offers permanent and temporary exhibitions and consists of a complex of buildings including a library and archives, which is located in the former Gainesville Gospel Tabernacle building; the nearby historic Matheson House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and one of the three oldest homes in the city; the Tison Tool Barn, which houses a historic tool collection; and Sweetwater Park, which is located just to the south a co-managed by the museum the city. The museum's collection is comprised of 20,000 postcards, 1,500 stereograph cards, maps, photographs, documents, books, and artifacts.
Backstory and Context
The origins of the museum date back to the establishment of the Alachua County Historical Society, which was founded in 1967 (it merged with the Matheson Museum, which was then called the Matheson Historical Center, when that opened in 1994) thanks to the leadership and vision of librarian Helen Cubberly Ellerbe, who became the Society's founding president. Although the Society did not have its own location until partnered with the museum, it still was able to make an impact. It focused on erecting historical markers and hosting regular programs and field trips to historic sites. In 1977, the Society acquired Matheson House. In the late 1980s, a group of Society members founded the Matheson Historical Center, which established the museum and the library.
As for the Matheson House, it was built in 1867 by South Carolina native James D. Matheson. It is a great example of Greek Revival architecture blended with South Carolina plantation architecture. Matheson was a successful Gainesville merchant. A wife of one of Matheson's descendants, Sarah Matheson, played a role in founding the Society and the Matheson Museum. She is the person responsible for deeding the house to the Society in 1977.
"History of the Museum." Matheson History Museum. Accessed August 23, 2018. https://mathesonmuseum.org/about/history.