Thursday, October 29, 2020
The realtor signs on the former Shutter building will be replaced with signage for the Tomah Area Historical Museum sometime this year.  Herald photos Bob KliebensteinWhile the closing is still one month away, moving boxes, shrink wrap and packing tape are already on site at the existing museum.

Tomah Historical Museum will get new home

That sign erected on a vacant Superior Avenue lot proclaiming it the future site of the Tomah Area Historical Museum?

That future was measured in years.

That sign has been removed and now sits in storage inside the museum at 1112 Superior Ave. In a little over one month that sign will be moved to another building that will be the future site of the Tomah museum.

A future that can be measured in months.

The museum board of directors reached a purchase agreement with the owner of the former Shutter's grocery building. A closing date has been set for April 3, according to Sharon Larkin, who sits on the building committee for a new museum, and Jim Weinzatl, director of the Tomah museum.

Larkin said the goal is to be moved into the much larger building by June 15, if not sooner.

Initially the plan was to build on a lot purchased from Ron and Don Tralmer near Band Box Cleaners. But last August the board and a building committee learned the Shutter building was for sale. Several members toured the building.

The building, built in the 1950s, has significant upside. It's spacious, 7,400 feet. Has off street parking, a rubber roof recently installed and three furnaces and two A/C units installed in 2017. Add to that ample electrical capacity.

The asking price at that time was $269,000. Initial reaction from the board was concern the purchase would drain finances. It was decided to stick with the original plan, fundraise and wait to build new.

But a meeting earlier this year with a representative from an area builder confirmed cost for a new building would exceed $1 million. Larkin said support started to sway in favor of negotiating a purchase price for a solid, existing building.

"At that time there was serious consideration given to the building purchase," Larkin said. "Then excitement started to grow."

At this time Larkin and Weinzatl chose not to disclose the purchase cost. But the museum board is mounting a fundraising campaign.

In a mass mailing letter it is noted two anonymous donors have pledged to match donations up to $70,000.

"We still need money. That is what this letter is about," Weinzatl said.

The Tralmer lot is back on the market, Weinzatl said. There is already buyer interest in the existing museum building, the former longtime business location for Frosty and Joyce Mades.

Some work is needed in the Shutter building. Part of the ceiling needs painting. A unisex bathroom needs to be updated for handicap access. Some shelves need to be built for displays. New signage will be needed at some point.

 Preliminary packing started with baby steps last week with a few empty boxes already on site waiting to be filled. Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to contact Weinzatl or Larkin. Weinzatl said a group of Wal-Mart distribution center employees offered to help when needed.

Larkin and Weinzatl are clearly excited what the larger building offers for display space. Some items stored in the basement and second level of the existing museum will likely find room on the display floor. Weinzatl said there will be more room for speakers and other programs during the year.

They reminded residents in villages surrounding Tomah that it's an "area" museum and encouraged those communities to allow the museum to share their histories with donated items.

Larkin is confident the museum's new location will offer a local tourism boost for people visiting Tomah with a more spacious, visible building. The existing museum was almost hidden from view at the present location.

"It's so exciting to think it will be open this summer. It is a perfect location to help bring people to Tomah," Larkin said.

Anyone interested in volunteering time to move can contact Larkin 343-4899 or Weinzatl, 343-7927.

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