Brian Hughes Head of Cultural Services Division at Crestview

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CRESTVIEW – As the county seat continues to “raise the bar” for the quality of life of its citizens, a new division of the Parks and Recreation Department has been created specifically to improve the city’s cultural life.

With the start of the new fiscal year, the new cultural services division officially became operational on October 1. Former Crestview Public Information Officer Brian Hughes heads the new office, ultimately operating in historic Bush House after its planned renovation.

Lorenza and Laura Bush's 1925 home on South Wilson Street will soon be remodeled to become a Crestview history museum and the offices of the city's new cultural services division.

One of Hughes’ first jobs is to oversee the renovation project that will give what was originally the 1926 home of Louisville and Nashville railroad supervisor Lorenza Bush and his family to new life as Crestview History Museum.

“I love museums,” said Hughes. “I’ve been through probably hundreds of them, good and not so good here and abroad. I hope our museum will effectively tell the story of Crestview and some of our most interesting people in an already historic setting.

Currently, the Bush House, adjacent to City Hall on the south side of the railroad tracks, houses Okaloosa County Elder Services, who will most likely move to the Woodruff Avenue Public Safety Building.

The museum will be created in partnership with the city’s Historic Preservation Board, which has been looking for a space to share the history of Crestview for many years. A state grant will fund the renovation without using Crestview’s tax money.

Transformed and refitted

The Bush House Dining Room and North Front Lounge (seen through patio doors) will be renovated in 1920s style to display period furniture.  The brick fireplaces in each of the four rooms on the ground floor will be retained.

During its 95 years of residence, boarding, public offices, and even shelter from the storms, the solidly built house has been transformed, remodeled and altered. Electrical conduits wind around the walls and ceilings, bare fluorescent tubes light up almost every room, and a gray industrial rug covers almost every square foot of heart pine flooring, and what it doesn’t, linoleum does.

“I think when the renovations begin this wonderful old house will share a few surprises with us, as old houses do, and maybe dictate the approaches we take as we get this great old lady back in shape to receive calls again, ”said Hughes. noted.

Because no photographs or interior plans were found, the restoration will not be an exact recreation of what the house looked like when the Bush family lived there. However, Hughes plans to restore the living room on the north facade and the dining room to what it was then.

“This will be a great opportunity to display early 20th and late 19th century household items like porcelain, kitchenware, furniture, etc. that local homes may have had,” said Hughes. “The American Victorian was still very much alive until the 1920s and was a wonderful mishmash of patterns and styles.”

The large back room was originally made up of two rooms and an open porch.  This will be the main exhibition space in the historic Bush House.

The main exhibition hall is in the southwest section of the house and was originally two separate rooms and a once open porch that have been opened up into one large unusually shaped room over the years. Some of the exhibits will change from time to time.

“For a city that’s officially only 105 years old, we’ve had a pretty colorful history,” said Hughes. “We won’t have enough space to share everything, so I’m planning rotating exhibits that will encourage our residents and visitors to come back as new materials increase. “

City leaders expect the museum to open next spring or early summer, depending on secrets the Bush House reveals as renovations begin in a few weeks.

The spacious north front room was probably a living room and will be renovated in keeping with the times, offering the opportunity to showcase the furnishings and decorative items of a 1920s house.

Nature and arts

The new cultural services division will also include the McMahon Environmental Center in Crestview.

A ribbon cutting for the center children’s playground is scheduled for October 23 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the center, 130 Butler Circle, Crestview.

Visitors can also browse the new exhibit hall, which features artifacts curated by the park’s founder, the late forester John McMahon. The collection includes local stuffed wild animals and artifacts from local forest industries.

Future plans call for the renovation and restoration of the former Environmental Center scout hut, one of many that still stand in Okaloosa County, a project for which a community effort is already underway.

Other cultural service programs will include partnering with Mayor JB Whitten as part of his Mayor’s Cultural Series events; support the Crestview Community Choir; and help establish a community theater group.

The division will also partner with organizations such as the Main Street Crestview Association and the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce on local events, and with the Crestview Public Library on art exhibits, cultural exhibits, and programs and courses. historical. Institutional partners in the region’s history will include the Carver-Hill Museum and the Baker Block Museum, Hughes said.

“Just imagine a one-day museum exploration introducing you to our regional black history and culture, the heritage of the northern Okaloosa and the history of our county seat,” said Hughes.

Upcoming events presented by Cultural Services include a commemoration of the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the Yule Ball on November 27; and a major WWII commemoration at Twin Hills Park in April 2022 for the 80th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. For the latter event, the Cultural Services Division will partner with living history bodies from across the country.

“This new division really shows the city’s commitment to improving the cultural life of our community,” said Hughes. “Thanks to our partnerships with community organizations, a wide range of cultural opportunities for our families and visitors is about to open up.”

Crestview’s New Arts Specialist

Since his childhood, Brian Hughes has been passionate about the visual and performing arts. As a child, he took the bus with his mother to New York from their rural New Jersey to see Broadway plays, and remembers being captivated by live actors – performing, he supposed, just for him. He has served the community of Crestview by volunteering with organizations such as the Okaloosa Arts Alliance-North and the Friends of the Arts.

Brian Hugues

He was one of the initiators of the Music and Arts on Main Street events in the early 2010s and is president of the Laurel Hill Arts and Heritage Festival.

He has periodically mounted exhibits of movie memorabilia, World War II artifacts “and other things,” as he puts it, at the Crestview Public Library, and holds presentations on a variety of subjects, his most recent being a look behind “The Sound of Music” and the life of the original von Trapp family.

For Crestview’s recent 9/11 Remembrance Day, he wrote and directed a short drama called “Spirits of 9/11”. Hughes has also produced several programs as part of the Mayor’s Cultural Series, including the D-Day and WWII events of Crestview in 2019 and 2020.

Hughes is the Chair of the Crestview Area Sister Cities Program. He holds a Masters of Architecture from Tulane University and loves planning the renovation of historic Bush House into the Crestview History Museum.

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