Tread of Pioneers Museum curator Katie Adams cleans a painting of Fish Creek Falls by longtime Steamboat resident Mary Zimmerman before cataloguing the item and storing it in the museum’s current storage area. The museum is hoping to build a climate-controlled storage area for the collection.

Photo by John F. Russell

Tread of Pioneers Museum curator Katie Adams cleans a painting of Fish Creek Falls by longtime Steamboat resident Mary Zimmerman before cataloguing the item and storing it in the museum’s current storage area. The museum is hoping to build a climate-controlled storage area for the collection.

Tread of Pioneers Museum explores $1M building project

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— The board of directors for Tread of Pioneers Museum has entered a preliminary city planning process to explore building a new home for a portion of the museum’s collection that is outside the public view but no less important.

The new building also would add about 500 square feet of exhibition space as well as house a collections facility capable of properly storing and protecting valuable local artifacts.

“The history of our community continues to grow, as do the number of artifacts representing life in early Steamboat that are given to the museum on a daily basis,” museum board President John Marshall said. “The current collection facility is beyond capacity and does not have the proper heating, cooling and environmental controls to ensure that the collection is preserved for future generations.”

The portion of the museum’s collection not on display has been stored for many years in a little house at 219 Eighth St. that, at least in terms of age, is historic in its own right. However, museum curator Katie Adams said its small rooms, homemade shelving of particle board, low ceilings and leaky basement don’t afford the archival storage that would best preserve items of historical significance. Those items range from the family Bibles of pioneers to the city’s original articles of incorporation and period wedding dresses.

Jim Peterson said the board is tentatively proposing to remove the 1,700-square-foot house that serves as the collections building and replace it with a 3,600-square-foot open floor plan building with 2,700 square feet of usable space. The subtraction from 3,600 to 2,700 accounts for a modern staircase and three-story mechanical lift that would help move heavy objects between the main floor and both the second story and basement levels.

The new building would be connected to the existing museum by a single-story, flat-roofed addition that would account for the new exhibit space.

Linked to the existing exhibit space, it would allow Adams for the first time to curate an exhibit that would draw visitors through in a logical progression, she said.

Project architect Eric Smith said the new collections house is designed to resemble a typical Old Town home with both front and rear porches and roof pitches.

Smith said the estimated cost of construction is $600,000 to $700,000, but Peterson added that with landscaping and furnishing with museum-quality shelving, for example, the total cost of the building project is expected to reach $1 million.

The museum board anticipates pursuing contributions and grants, but the process will be furthered by the fact that the museum already has about $600,000 on hand.

Those funds have not come directly from the Routt County Museum and Heritage Fund, which is funded by 0.3 mills of property taxes approved by the voters in 2003, Peterson said. Instead, the museum’s fund has been built up through contributions over time and frugal fiscal policy, he said.

Smith said the building plan, in its current iteration, would require that the city approve setback variances from Eighth Street and the alley behind the museum as well as a variance from limits on the overall building size relative to the lot.

Peterson acknowledged that the museum will have to confront issues related to the fact that it is seeking to remove what is a historic Old Town house to make way for a modern building that would house a collection of objects and documents that embody the community’s history.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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