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New place for old things

Work continues on the new historical museum in IM

DAVE FOSTER, LEFT, and Doug Sleik of Carey Construction work on the framing of the north and south display areas in the new Menominee Range Historical Museum in Iron Mountain, across from the Cornish Pumping Engine and Mining Museum. The new location will allow exhibits to be moved from the Carnegie Public Library, the museum’s original home on Ludington Street. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Work is underway on Phase 3 improvements for the new Menominee Range Historical Museum in Iron Mountain.

In October, the foundation board signed a contract with Carey Construction to frame in the north and south display areas — each measuring 3-by-43 feet — in the “C” Ludington Shaft of the Chapin Mine sandstone dry building south of the Cornish Pumping Engine and Mining Museum.

When completed, those two display areas will house the majority of the collections now exhibited in the former Carnegie Public Library, the museum’s original home.

The north area will include Native American collections, trapper’s cabin, moonshine still, real estate office, Thomas A. Edison exhibit, jewelry shop, optometrist’s office, dentist’s office, drug store, doctor’s office and several smaller displays.

The South area will have the trading post, barn, carpenter’s shop with tools, blacksmith’s shop, milk house, ice house, kitchen, parlor, barber shop, dress shop, shoe shop and several smaller displays.

Workers this summer installed a cement ramp for handicapped access and as an emergency exit on the east side of the Chapin Mine sandstone dry building south of the Cornish Pumping Engine and Mining Museum. (Submitted photo)

Additional 4-by-4-foot case displays — 12 on the east exterior wall and 11 on the south exterior wall — will contain a variety of museum collections in many categories.

In addition, the Cracker Barrel General Store, the livery stable and the school room will be in the main open area on the west end of the new museum.

Carey Contracting began the framing work this month. Once completed, wiring for lighting will begin, followed by hanging drywall. Foundation Vice President Jim Hartwell has extensive construction experience and has volunteered to oversee the various phases of the project.

“Due to a number of substantial donations designated for the new museum project over the past several years, the foundation has been able to maintain momentum in making this project a reality,” said William Cummings, foundation president. “The project will continue to move forward as additional funds become available. Financial assistance in any amount will help us to continue the work.”

Additional stages of renovation, with estimated costs, include: south room display area, 33 by 43 feet, $85,000; north room display area, 33 by 43 feet, $85,000; electrical wiring, $5,000; three gas heaters at $5,000 each, $15,000; hallway ceilings, $15,000; main entry area ceiling, $19,000; tape and paint main entry area, $4,000; 25 4-by 4-foot wall display cabinets at $175 each, $3,750; three special larger wall display cabinets at $400 each, $1,200; insulate ceilings with 12-inch-deep insulation bats, $5,000; and plate glass for all displays, $4,500.

One of the new displays for the new Menominee Range Historical Museum in Iron Mountain. (Submitted photo)

Total cost for these projects is estimated at $242,000.

No timeline has been set for opening the new museum, which is probably still at least a couple of years down the road, Cummings said.

The Menominee Range Historical Foundation is funded only through admission fees, gift shop sales, memberships, donations, bequests and occasionally grants. It receives no city, county, state or national tax dollars.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the museums were unable to open during the 2020 season, making a significant impact on our operational funds,” Cummings said. “The foundation is eager to open for the 2021 season, provided safety for staff, volunteers and visitors from virus can be maintained.”

The Iron Mountain School District actually owns the former Carnegie Public Library building. In 1971, the Iron Mountain School Board allowed the foundation to use the structure as a museum, with the foundation covering all maintenance and operating expenses.

Built in 1902, the building is not energy efficient or handicapped-friendly, has inadequate restroom facilities and will soon need a new roof and furnaces. The site also has limited parking space.

The foundation board decided moving the museum to the “dry building,” which it owns, would make better sense than investing further in the existing museum building downtown. Having all three museums on one campus would be a distinct advantage as well.

In 2019, Phase 2 saw construction of 194.5 lineal feet of the outside perimeter walls around the display area. Styrofoam insulation with a vapor barrier was attached to the back of the 2-by-4-inch walls, which were affixed to the original sandstone walls. Fiberglass insulation then was installed between the studs for further protection and warmth. Blocking also was installed for the wall display cabinets, each measuring about 4-feet square, that will be along the south wall east of the garage door and the full length of the east wall.

Windows and the main entrance on the north wall will help light the schoolroom on the northwest corner of the museum.

In fall 2019, workmen encountered water when they began to dig the footings for the cement handicapped ramp emergency exit on the east side of the dry building, with the trench filling to the top overnight.

Coleman Engineering solved the issue this past summer by routing the excess water underground to the city’s sewer system. They then installed the cement handicapped ramp. Total cost, including rectifying the unanticipated water problem, was $35,596.

Foundation Treasurer Guy Forstrom spent some time late this past fall grading around the dry building and improving the parking area in front of the building and across the street.

Hartwell put some finishing touches on the front of the Cracker Barrel General Store in 2020, applying trim painted dark green and a cedar shake roof. He built shelving as well that will be used to display items typically found in a general store in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Antique counters and display cases, scales, a coffee grinder, a potbellied stove, crank wall telephone, butcher’s meat rack and butcher’s block will be moved to this location from the Cracker Barrel General Store in the downtown museum.

Hartwell installed a ceiling that looks like the old-fashioned tin ceilings found in many early stores.

He also constructed two LED-lit cases that will house the museum’s collection of rifles and pistols, one on the left exterior side of the general store and the other on the wall adjoining the storefront to the right.

The foundation wants to make the public aware of the progress that has been made and hopes to continue to move forward as money becomes available.

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