This visitor center is the former office of a doctor named Dr. Robert Smith. He is the brother of Gertrude Smith, who is the benefactor of the Gilmer-Smith Foundation. In 1910, this gorgeous home was erected, and it is on the National Historic Register of Homes. The Gilmer-Smith Foundation has run both the Mount Airy Visitors Center and the historic Gertrude Smith House since 1981.
This center is mostly dedicated to Andy Griffith and the television series centered around this town. It boasts that it is the home of the largest collection of Andy Griffith memorabilia in the country. I will admit that it does have three intriguing rooms filled with various artifacts. These artifacts include such items as a Madlock suit and a chair that Griffith used as a baby. However, it does have other information concerning other local natives, such as country-western singer Donna Fargo and bluegrass legend Tommy Jarrell. In addition, it has literature on the original Siamese twins, Eng and Chang Bunker, whom lived near Mount Airy in the White Plains community. When we were there, we viewed a VCR tape on these people. But I found the most interesting part of this tape was that the Bunker brothers lived a pretty normal life with their physical challenges. They each were married (they married women that were sisters) and had several children. And their livelihood was farming with their wives.
The elderly women who operated the visitor center the day we were there were helpful and informative. They gave us a map of the downtown attractions in Mount Airy. The ladies told us about Mayberry Days, too. They were a complete joy to deal with. The women answered all our questions about Mount Airy and never acted like we were consuming all their time. These nice ladies even told us about the Robert Smith Memorial Park, which is behind the visitor center. It has a stunning garden setting where people can have picnics. And during the summer months, it is the place for the Summer Music Series in the Park. The admissions to the concerts are free. This is sponsored yearly by the Gilmer-Smith Foundation. These concerts include tracing the musical heritage of North Carolina by using various instruments and telling traditional stories on the third Sunday of each month through September from 5 to 7pm.
The Mount Airy Visitors Center is located one block north of the downtown business district and open every day of the year except Christmas and New Year’s Day. And the hours are Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm and Sunday 11am to 4:30pm. There is no admission fee to enter the visitor center.