Farmers’ Castle Museum Education Center to begin addition construction

BELPRE – After much planning and preparation, survey work on the new Collections Preservation addition to the Farmers’ Castle Museum Education Center was completed this week and construction is expected to get underway next week.

The new 50-by-50 foot addition next to the museum at 509 Ridge St. will house a larger meeting room, restrooms and provide additional space for artifacts, memorabilia, exhibits and educational displays similar to those in the existing building, which will remain in full use.

The total project cost is around $240,000. Nancy Sams with the Belpre Historical Society said the goal was to raise $175,000 by the end of January to have a spring groundbreaking, which came to fruition in April. Once construction gets underway, the contract calls for a 150-day construction time frame.

“They are saying hopefully it will be done quicker than that, it’s a fairly simple building, but it still has to be built by code,” Sams said.

Getting to this point in the project was no easy task.

“There are so many issues that have to be addressed when you are building, so many decisions to be made, there is a bidding process and plans. It doesn’t happen quickly, but we’re finally going to see construction get started,” Sams said.

“We had to first hire an architect. Then, since we are a quasi-public entity, even though we are a nonprofit organization, but because we are open to the public, we had to follow certain code requirements. There were permits that had to be approved. Then we had to decide the size, look at the cost, there are so many details before our membership and executive committee could decide how to proceed,” Sams said.

The society decided to go ahead with the April groundbreaking to let people know the project was going to happen, Sams said.

“We had a lot of naysayers. We have tried to keep people informed, it’s not just a pipe dream. We also had to convince people of the need,” Sams said.

“We had to decide how the building would be situated on the property to still allow for re-enactments and other activities. There are all kinds of nuts and bolts decisions that had to be made,” Sams said. “It all takes time. There is a whole bidding process to be followed. this has all transpired since April. We’ve been working behind the scenes, people don’t see this happening, but it is happening,” she said.

Sams said with the funds already raised, the society still needs to raise an additional $20,000. In addition to raising the additional funds needed for construction, there will be additional maintenance, insurance, security expenses, utilities, and other related costs for the new addition.

Sams said the museum also needs more volunteers.

“You don’t have to be a historian, but if they like history and want to be involved with a volunteer group, we can use help with filing, cleaning, taking phone calls, recording diaries brought in, transcribing them to keep the history alive. We keep all that so people can come and research. We try to educate the public of all ages on their local history, how did we get here,” Sams said. “There’s a lot of history in this community.”

A video dairy is planned of the construction process from start to finish.

Rodney Huck, of Waterford is the general contractor, David Haught of DLH Design, Marietta, was chosen as the architect.

Anyone wishing to donate to the building project can send their donation to the Belpre Historical Society with a note it is for the Farmers Castle Museum to P.O. Box 731, Belpre, OH 45714, stop by the museum or call 740-423-7382 or 740-423-7588 and leave a message.

The nonprofit museum is operated by volunteers and includes an extensive southeastern Ohio Underground Railroad permanent exhibit, based on research of the local author and historian Henry Burke of Marietta, memorabilia and artifacts from the area including furniture, toys, farm implements, an old-style darkroom, cameras and equipment, Victorian period furnishings, school exhibits and military items.

The museum is featuring Civil War memorabilia, including a slave collar and chains, battle maps, resources and research materials, books, and maps. Other exhibits include a restored 1840s carriage and working gear-driven wooden loom used to make rugs and teach the art of weaving. Visitors can try their hand on the loom and purchase rugs and other items, made during demonstrations, as well as local history books in the museum gift shop. The McManus Archaeology Collection represents 12,000 years of prehistoric history, including arrowheads and primitive tools found in the Belpre area. There is also a set of andirons, peppermill and backgammon game from the Blennerhassett mansion.

There is an Apple-Agriculture Exhibit with hand tools, saws and scythes, cider presses and apple barrels. An operating blacksmith shop contains the original forge and anvil from Shaffer’s Mill and a 100-year-old workbench stands next to a man-sized manual drill press and pedal-driven router in a facility constructed in back of the museum by volunteers.

There is also genealogy information in the resource center with local family histories, diaries, heritage homes, burial records and other valuable information for those searching for ancestors.