Thursday, March 26, 2009
Museum renovations nearing completion
By SUE WATSON
The landmark Marshall County Historical Museum, under renovation since July 2003, will be ready for reoccupancy within weeks, according to Larry Hall, county administrator who has overseen the stabilization and repair of the structure built in 1904.
The historic building was constructed as the Presbyterian Synodical School for girls at the turn of the 20th Century and has in recent times been occupied by the Marshall County Historical Museum exclusively, according to curator Lois Swanee-Shipp.
The building was in serious disrepair due to the removal of the auditorium years ago, exposing an internal wall that was never waterproofed and sealed, Hall said.
The resulting effect was water damage which lead to deterioration of the floors, joists, foundation and foundation on the back wall and east wall, he said.
With a generous grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and with county funds and labor, the building is fully restored and improved. The cost to repair and improve the building runs somewhere around $400,000, Hall said.
The building will have an industrial elevator to service all three floors and is equipped for the first time with central air and heat. The building is also handicapp accessible thanks to grant dollars from ARC.
Bill Kivelle, who joined the building and grounds department as supervisor of construction about the time the project was approved, has spearheaded the project. Hall said the work would have been completed sooner but the work crew had to be pulled off the project several times - once to build the new courtroom on the square and again to work on the Byhalia tax office substation.
Hall said the funds became available to save the structure because it is a registered historic landmark with the state.
“The Marshall County Board of Supervisors are to be commended for making this effort to preserve this historic structure and to keep it in use,” he said. “It is a drawing card for tourism – quite a deal, really. I think having the museum back in its original home since its inception is good. It's a good solid building now from top to bottom.”
Before the building was stripped for restoration, work on the roof and eaves was done, the foundation and an outside wall that were in danger of collapsing was stabilized. The windows were repaired and the walls, floors and ceilings overhauled.
Local suppliers and local craftsmen provided nearly all the supplies and labor, Hall said.
Swanee said two-thirds of the museum’s contents had been put in storage with the other third moved to the W.O. Fitch Building on Van Dorn which has served as temporary quarters for the museum. Fitch donated the space free of charge for the museum's use for the first year after the contents were moved to the square.
Swanee-Shipp said the items in storage would be moved back into the museum first, then the artifacts in the museum on the square would be moved. Moving in that order will allow the museum to stay open most of the time, she said.
She asked people who have items to donate to the museum to wait a couple of weeks and bring them to the museum on East College Avenue since the Van Dorn location is bursting at the seams with artifacts.
She is looking forward to moving back in.
“I think it’s going to be wonderful when we get over there,” Swanee-Shipp said. “It’s going to be great.”
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