Say it ain't so: Museum to go

From gold records to fan mail to American flag-decked leather jackets, Staunton's Statler Brothers have amassed large quantities of memorabilia over their 40-year career. And fans have come from all over the country to enjoy such tokens of the quartet's past at the Statler Museum in Staunton.

But come October 31, all the guitars, cowboy hats, and red-white-and-blue outfits will be packed away. As if the Statlers' decision to stop touring wasn't enough of a blow, Stauntonians and fans worldwide have now been told the museum is closing its doors forever.

"It's certainly a disappointment," says Sergei Troubetzkoy, director of Staunton visitor's bureau. "Any way you look at it, it's a loss."

Staunton made headlines just a month ago for an ambitious plan to raise $20 million to parlay Woodrow Wilson's birth into a massive presidential library. And like a good PR man, Troubetzkoy realizes his small Shenandoah Valley city remains viable as a tourist destination.

"It will not have a tremendous effect," Troubetzkoy says. "Most people don't come for any one attraction."

The good news: all four Statlers still live in Staunton, and the the gift shop will remain open at a new location. It'll move about a mile across town to 1409 Augusta Street. Office manager Ann Peters reports an increase in traffic to the free-admission museum since word got out that it was closing.

The Statlers bought the Beverley Manor School complex in 1981 and converted it into offices, rehearsal space, a gift shop, and the Statler Museum. The complex, built in 1910 and 1927, contains the elementary school that all four of the original Statlers attended. (Jimmy Fortune, who replaced ailing Lew DeWitt in the early '80s, grew up in Nelson County.)

There is one happy bit of serendipity to end this story: The vacated Statler complex will return to its original function, as a school.