Patsy Cline fans curious about the early days of her brief but highly acclaimed country music career will finally be able to do more than just drive by her old house here and snap a picture.
The Patsy Cline Historic House will open Aug. 2 as a memorial to the singer who recorded such classics as “Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces’’ before dying in a plane crash in 1963.
Visitors will be able to step through the door of 608 S. Kent St. and back in time some six decades for a glimpse of how Virginia “Ginny’’ Patterson Hensley lived from her mid-teens to mid-20s, as she emerged from small-town obscurity to become one of music’s most enduring and influential superstars.
“The fact that her music seems timeless brings a whole new group in every generation that keeps her alive,’’ said Cline’s daughter, Julie Fudge of Nashville.
For decades, Cline’s fans have had to satisfy their curiosity about her early years in Winchester by cruising past her once-dilapidated former home, dropping by the drugstore where she worked as a teenage soda jerk, and paying homage at her gravesite just outside the Shenandoah Valley city of 26,000 that is known for apples and Civil War sites.
The public’s ongoing fascination with the first female solo artist inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame prompted a group of Winchester residents to establish a nonprofit corporation, Celebrating Patsy Cline Inc., which purchased and renovated the home.
Cline moved to the house with her mother and two siblings in November 1948, the year after her parents split up. She lived there until June 1957, except for a few years during her first marriage to Gerald Cline. Her mother, Hilda Hensley, rented at first but later bought the home.
Cline was living in the tiny two-story frame house when she signed her first record deal, made her Grand Ole Opry debut, and won “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts’’ television competition - a sort of ’50s version of “American Idol’’ - by singing “Walkin’ After Midnight,’’ which became her first hit record.
What visitors will see is a home that was typical for families of modest means during that era: small rooms, low ceilings, scaled-down furniture, and very little storage space. Celebrating Patsy Cline spent about $100,000 renovating the house and equipping it with appliances and furniture intended to replicate the way the home looked when the singer lived there.
Only a few items are original.Upstairs is the lone bedroom that was shared by all four family members. Two tiny closets and a four-drawer dresser - one drawer for each family member - provided all the storage space the family needed.