Pioneer Museum’s Plight for Preservation Through Perseverance
In last week’s edition of the Kadoka Press, we examined the unique history of the 112-year-old depot constructed by the Chicago & North Western (C&NW) Railway in Midland, which served the community until the railway ceased passenger service in 1960. We learned of the community members foresight in preserving the history of the territory we all proudly call our home. From that foresight, the Midland Pioneer Museum Association (MPMA) incorporated the abandoned depot into a vision to entertain, educate and inform visitors of our history at the biggest little museum in the West. Now, that dream is in peril.
The MPMA purchased the former depot, moved it to its present location at 504 Main Street, and restored the depot in the mid-seventies. Since then, the MPMA sought funds through various means such as the yearly fundraiser held during the annual town celebration. The annual event features volunteers interacting with visitors to share the tools of the trade. Last year, board member Cody Jones taught locals and visitors how to make rope for one of the exhibits, representative of the utilitarian and sometimes, homemade, hand tools of the era, things of necessity in the territory.
The annual fundraising events, in addition to the donations of museum patrons and visitors, covers the annual expenditures for the operating expenses and general maintenance, including the repainting of the exterior, three times since the original restoration. Now, the paint will no longer adhere to the aged and weathered surface. The windows and doors pose a greater concern since there is visible rot and decay, which could threaten the historical contents. There are 26 windows of varying sizes, three entry doors with transom windows, and three freight doors in the two-story museum. As stated in last week's article, Mother Nature and Father Time appear to have taken a significant toll on the structure in the 20th century, but pose greater concern in respect to preservation in the 21st century, and not in the historical sense but in the protective sense.
One of the MPMA’s priorities is to protect the contents of the depot while preserving the architectural and historical integrity of the building. The biggest obstacle for this non-profit organization is funding for the project.
Currently, the MPMA board seeks funding through donations or grants from local, regional, state and national resources including historical societies and railroad historical groups. The MPMA board members are Jean Calhoun, Richard Doud, Cody Jones, James Root, Jessica Root, Linda Sinclair and George Stroppel. Sinclair serves as the treasurer for the MPMA and works diligently submitting requests to various organizations seeking any funds available for the project, following up with potential donors and searching for other resources. The biggest obstacle Sinclair faces is the lack of registry on the National Register of Historic Places, a branch of the National Park Service. The criteria for placement on the National Historic Register, authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, requires that the structure and any restorative work must remain true to the architecture and materials of the period. Unfortunately, the steel roof meant to quickly and efficiently protect the contents from the elements failed to meet with the criteria when compared to the costly and labor intensive wooden shake roofing materials original to the depot. If the museum received placement on the register, far greater amounts of funding would be available from a treasure trove of historical societies. That does not deter Sinclair. Nor do the letters denying funding based upon the lack of registry, as she is thankful for the funds received from local companies, such as Progressive Seed and regional entities, who generously donate to the non-profit organization.
The MPMA received bids for the installation of new siding and windows from area contractors for different materials including wood, wood composite and steel for the siding and wood, vinyl clad and steel framed replacement windows. The original clapboard siding and mullion-styled windows are from the only resource available during the depot’s construction, wood. Essentially, the costs for the bids vary slightly and the approximate estimate to replace the existing, falls into the mid-seventies. And, we are not talking the year of the restoration. We are talking in terms of dollars.
The MPMA recently received a $500 grant from the South Dakota Historical Society to assist with fundraising costs such as printing, postage and advertising. Sinclair indicates that the MPMA plans to host an auction of unique items donated for fundraising sometime in June to continue to raise money for the extensive and necessary project. In the meantime, she looks in the mailbox hoping for favorable responses to the many requests for funds to save the littlest museum that could.
Donations to the MPMA are tax deductible and may be submitted to the MPMA or deposited with First National Bank of Midland.