The doors remain closed to tourists this summer at the Old Stagecoach Stop in downtown Waynesville, but visitors can now see images and read about the historic structure through a new virtual tour on their website.
Starting at www.oldstagecoachstop.org/virtmus/intro.html, visitors can start a guided tour or click on a map of the building and explore each room, floor by floor.
“I still have more tweaking to do,” said Terry Primas, a longtime member of the Old Stagecoach Stop Foundation board, who estimates he spent nearly 100 hours taking photos, processing historic images and laying out and revising the new web pages.
“One hundred hours is a conservative guess,” Primas said. “I should point out, however, that I am very slow.”
Originally built in the 1850s as a settler’s cabin, the Old Stagecoach Stop is the oldest standing structure in Pulaski County and has served the area as a stagecoach stop, a tavern, a Civil War hospital, a restaurant, dentist’s office, apartment building and more. The foundation, which purchased the building and began restoration efforts in the 1980s, has worked to preserve and expand the site as a museum that chronicles multiple stages of the history of the area.
While the foundation usually holds weekly in-person tours each April through September led by volunteer tour guides who dress in period costumes, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancelation of tours so far this year, with no reopening date in sight for now.
“If our visitors were only local people, it might make a decision (to reopen) easier, but our visitors come from all over the country, as well as Europe,” Primas said, adding that opening with safety measures is also impractical.
“Disinfecting the old, wooden surfaces is not an option, as it might harm (the building),” Primas said. “And — and this is a big ‘and’ — all but one of our volunteers are considered in the vulnerable senior-citizen category.”
Primas said the decision to create a tour online was made at the foundation’s May 5 meeting, which was also held virtually. Primas said he designed and uploaded pages representing each room, while his wife, Jan, provided feedback and proofreading. After the first floor was completed, the entire board reviewed it, provided feedback and Primas moved on to the second floor.
In addition to the virtual tour, the site also has a new podcasts section. Located on the site at http://www.oldstagecoachstop.org/podcasts2.html, it features oral-history recordings conducted by local historians from the 1970s through 2006. Nine local residents share their stories about life in Pulaski County before, during and after the construction of Fort Leonard Wood and more.