A historical building on Main Street in Carlisle has changed hands and is now moving toward a new life. Dorothy Neal, widow of longtime Carlisle merchant Eugene Neal, has donated the Neal Building on West Main Street to the Nicholas County Historical Society, presenting the deed to the property to Historical Society President Joan Conley last week.
Neal's Square Deal will retain its small town general store atmosphere in the front, but it also will become the new home of the Nicholas County Historical Society, ultimately displaying both the historical artifacts collected by the late Eugene Neal and Dorothy Neal and the historical and genealogical resources of the society.
"We have received this wonderful old building, due to the generosity of Dorothy Neal," said Historical Society President Conley. "The gift reflects the dedication of the Neals to the work of the Historical Society and to the welfare of the county. We will act as stewards for what we think will be a facility that will benefit the entire Carlisle and Nicholas County community."
Conley said the restoration of the building will be done in stages, as funds become available. When planning is completed, the Society will mount a campaign to raise funds to restore and equip the building.
The Historical Society, its board members and its fundraising committee are already pledging generous amounts as a "leadership challenge."
"We're putting our money where our mouths, and our dreams, are," said Joan Conley, "and soon, we'll be asking others to join us."
The Historical Society plans a cooperative effort with Nicholas County Tourism, other community groups and organizations, and individual volunteers to use a portion of the building as a welcome center for visitors to the community, open three days each week.
Gladys Shrout, the Tourism, Inc. president, said, "We believe this will encourage more tourism and help people get information when they come to town, - and we do have a great story to tell."
The Historical Society also will develop the museum and will maintain the country store atmosphere, complete with rocking chairs, just as provided by the Neal family during its many years of operation. Special events, such as a Saturday market, a coffee hour, and the sale of selected gifts and craft items also are projected.
"We think the welcome center and the museum will encourage long term economic benefits for the community," said Joan Conley. "But, we also will be very focused on providing a variety of educational opportunities, many for our county's children but also something for everyone."
The plans include restoration of Mozart Hall on the second floor, with provision for performances and for meetings and social events. Jim Haag, a Historical Society board member, termed Mozart Hall "a gem."
The building now known as Neal's was built in 1883 by J. T. Sims. Mozart Hall was established upstairs and used as a theater until the early 1900s. Several businesses, including a bowling alley, Noah's Ark and Brooks Hat Shop have occupied portions of the downstairs over the years.
The Neal family acquired the building in the 1930s and operated what was first known as the Kentucky Food Store. It later became "Neal's Square Deal," where "Ma Saves Pa's Dough."
Joan Conley said that anyone with questions or suggestions may call her or any member of the Nicholas County Historical Society Board. "This is a really big undertaking by the Historical Society and, we hope, by the entire Carlisle and Nicholas County community. We think it can become a truly wonderful resource for the community, comparable to the renovated and restored L & N Depot and the restored former county jailer's home." In conclusion, Conley said, "We (the historical society) ask the readers of The Nicholas Countian & Carlisle Mercury 'to stay tuned.'"