Missouri News

Windows, exhibits being updated at Louisiana Area Historical Museum

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 10, 2018 10:15 pm

LOUISIANA, Mo. -- Officials with the Louisiana Area Historical Museum are taking steps to protect the building's architectural integrity and expand its historic displays.

The museum at 304 Georgia St. is housed in a downtown building constructed around 1880, which would make it 138 years old.

Museum officials have been looking for any weaknesses that might appear in the old structure, which was built using soft bricks produced in Louisiana in the mid-19th century.

"We are constantly watching the condition of the brick so that it doesn't deteriorate and let in water," explained Judy Schmidt, president of the museum's governing board.

Last summer, she said, museum officials noticed that the seven Victorian-style windows on the upper portion of the building's front were showing signs of disrepair, which threatened to allow water infiltration.

"They have never been protected by storm windows, and we were getting quite a lot of deterioration around the sills and the bottom part of the sashes and the window trim," Schmidt said.

Museum officials applied for and received a grant from the Louisiana Historic Preservation Association, a not-for-profit organization that works to protect the architectural heritage of the city's downtown buildings.

The grant enabled the museum to move forward quickly with a window-restoration project that's taking place this month, led by contractor Joe Owens.

Schmidt said museum officials are glad the exterior repairs are being carried out because everyone wants to make sure the museum's historic headquarters stay in good condition.

"We have a beautiful building front," Schmidt said, noting how the exterior has been painted in colorful shades of peach, aqua and teal. "We're a painted lady," she said.

The front also features decorative metal work installed by the Mesker brothers of St. Louis, who were known for their distinctive ornamentation on many commercial buildings in this region.

"Although the lower floor of our building has been changed over the years (before it became a museum), the upper parts still retain the Mesker look," Schmidt said, referring to the building's decorative cornices and triangular window hoods.

"We want to preserve the history that we have there," she said.

The museum is also taking steps to preserve local history by expanding its historical displays inside the building.

Schmidt said the museum is taking steps to redesign a front room to add displays honoring some of the famous people from Louisiana.

The museum also recently put on display a special quilt sewn by local volunteers for Louisiana's bicentennial celebration earlier this year.

Another new addition is a 2-foot-square metal plaque removed from Louisiana's original Champ Clark Bridge, which was built in 1928 and is in the process of being replaced.

The plaque was presented to museum officials Thursday night during the museum's annual fundraising dinner. It was handed over by a representative from the Missouri Department of Transportation, which is working with the Illinois Department of Transportation to build the new bridge, slated to be completed in the fall of 2019. The old bridge will be demolished once the new span is completed.

The plaque given to the museum "commemorates the Missouri-Illinois Bridge Company, which was formed in 1927 to build the bridge," explained Brent Engel, vice president of the museum's governing board. "We'll have it on prominent display."

Marisa Ellison, communications manager for MoDOT's Northeast District, said the plaque is one of at least seven historic plaques removed from the old Champ Clark Bridge. All seven will be preserved.

In addition to the one given to the Louisiana museum, one will become part of an interpretive panel to be built in Louisiana's Riverview Park based on a design by students from the Hannibal Career and Technical Center.

Ellison said another plaque will be given to a museum in Pike County, Ill., and at least one will go to the MoDOT museum in Jefferson City.

"And we are going to definitely keep one plaque," she said, noting how the plaque will be displayed in a "mini museum" at MoDOT's district office in Hannibal.

Louisiana's museum is now closed for the season. It will reopen Memorial Day weekend and will then remain open through Louisiana's annual Colorfest weekend in October.

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