Around Town: Sylva’s American Museum of the House Cat lands on its feet

COOL CATS: A stationary carousel at the American Museum of the House Cat displays antique carousel cats. Photo courtesy of the American Museum of the House Cat

The American Museum of the House Cat will begin its second life on Saturday, April 1, in Sylva. That leaves seven more lives to go.

The Jackson County-based educational museum originally opened in 2017 inside the Old School House Antique Mall in Dillsboro to showcase founder Harold Sims‘ large collection of feline memorabilia and collectibles. Organizers shut it down in late 2019 when the mall closed, with plans to reopen in its new location in spring 2020.

Then COVID-19 restrictions hit.

“We just happened to be one of many small businesses affected by the pandemic,” says Kimberly Crow, the venue’s social media and marketing manager. “Reopening our museum has always been our goal, but staffing difficulties have delayed us until now.”

The new museum location will be in a building Sims had built on U.S. 441 south in Sylva.

The site’s collection includes framed paintings, cat clocks, old tin advertisements, arcade games, stuffed animals, feline beer steins, cat automatons and even mummified felines. Among the highlights are a band of ceramic cat musicians and a carousel Sims built to hold antique carousel cats.

“When you step inside the cat museum, be prepared to journey through centuries, as the history of house cats is told,” Crow says.

Sims, a retired biology professor, has operated Catman2, a nonprofit, no-cage, no-kill shelter in Cullowhee, for more than two decades. For his efforts to save thousands of kittens and cats, he is affectionately known as “the Catman” in Jackson County, Crow says.

At the museum, guests will be introduced to a small prototype of Sims’ “cats without cages” open sheltering approach. “Our curator [Sims] is an educator and believes museums bring joy, amusement, learning and inspiration to the world,” Crow says.

The museum will be open noon-5 p.m. Thursdays-Mondays in April and May and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays-Mondays June-December. Admission will be $10 for adults, $5 for children 5-12 and free for younger children.

The American Museum of the House Cat is at 5063 U.S. 441 south, Sylva. For more information or to donate, visit

The aging process

Marjorie Klein started writing the novel that would become Time in a Bottle about 20 years ago but put it aside for various reasons.

In the intervening decades, she moved from Miami to Western North Carolina and published another book, Boom. All the while, her unfinished work about a 60-year-old virgin discovering a possible fountain of youth continued to haunt her, she says.

“I didn’t like the book as it stood but still felt attached to the basic story and characters, so began again from square one,” explains the Weaverville-based writer. “I identified more with the theme and characters, thanks to 20 additional years of life, and explored the idea of aging and the desire to stay forever young with more insight.”

Time in a Bottle was published last month by Black Rose Writing. It tells the story of a part-owner of a Miami lingerie shop who hires a Cuban well digger to tap into a hidden underground spring that may actually be a fountain of youth.

Klein spent years writing nonfiction for various publications, most notably the Miami Herald’s Sunday magazine, Tropic. “I covered some amazing stories that embedded themselves into my subconscious and then emerged later as the armature for my fiction,” she says.

These days, she is an instructor in UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program and its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She is also a member of the Flatiron Writers Room.

For more information or to buy to book, go to

Spring flowers

After a three-year absence due to COVID-19, the Asheville Orchid Festival returns to the N.C. Arboretum 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, April 1-2.

The event, put on by the Western North Carolina Orchid Society, will feature exhibits by international orchid growers and breeders along with regional orchid societies. It’s the arboretum’s second-biggest annual event, surpassed only by the Winter Lights holiday festival, says Graham Ramsey, president of the WNC Orchid Society.

Throughout the weekend, the Orchid Society will host programs and educational lectures, including a guided tour through the orchid exhibits by Marc Burchette of the Biltmore Conservatory and an orchid repotting clinic led by Ramsey.

In 2020, the 22nd annual festival was weeks away when COVID restrictions hit.

“The theme was “The Orchid Express,” playing on The Orient Express, and we built a fantastic cutaway train car for our display,” Burchette says. “This year we finally get to put the train back on the tracks.”

The N.C. Arboretum is at 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way. Admission is $5 for anyone 12 or older. For more information, visit

Heavy metal

The Southern Highland Craft Guild will host Glass & Metal Day 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at the Folk Art Center.

The free event will feature more than a dozen guild members showcasing glass and metal techniques, including blacksmithing, glass blowing, piercing and annealing metals, knife making, bezeling, repoussé, soldering stained glass and forging.

Glass & Metal Day is the first of several Saturday educational events hosted throughout the year in the Folk Art Center’s auditorium, including Fiber Day (May 13), Clay Day (June 10) and Wood Day (Aug. 12).

The Folk Art Center is at Milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in East Asheville. For more information, visit

Mountain music

The Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center will host an opening reception for its newest exhibit, Striking a Chord: Music and Community in the Swannanoa Valley, 4-6 p.m. Saturday, April 1.

The exhibit will focus on musicians, musical communities and venues in the region. Some of the featured names and places include Roberta FlackMarcus Martin, Artus Moser, Walt Davis, Roseland Gardens and the Swannanoa Gathering.

The Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center is at 223 W. State St., Black Mountain. Hours are Wednesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. To RSVP for the opening reception, go to

Tickets on sale for literacy event

Bestselling author Silas House will be the keynote speaker at Literacy Together’s 14th annual Authors for Literacy Dinner & Auction 6-9 p.m. Thursday, May 4, at the Crowne Plaza Resort – Expo Center.

House has written several novels, including Clay’s Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, Southernmost and Lark Ascending, published in September.

A former commentator for NPR‘s “All Things Considered,” House’s writing has appeared in Time, The Atlantic, Ecotone, The Advocate, Garden & Gun and Oxford American. He also serves on the fiction faculty at the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Creative Writing and as the National Endowment of the Humanities chair at Berea College.

Proceeds from the dinner benefit Literacy Together’s programs, which provide literacy and English language needs of people of all ages in Buncombe County.

The Crowne Plaza Resort – Expo Center is at 1 Resort Drive. General admission tickets are $95 and VIP passes are $500. For more information or to buy tickets, go to


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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