MARIETTA - It's been nearly 86 years since William Mills, in honor of his wife, combined two homes and added a swimming pool and gymnasium to house the Betsey Mills Club at the corner of Fourth and Putnam streets in Marietta.
Those original facilities are slated for some upgrades this year, thanks to some planning and $449,200 in donations over the last couple of years.
"Maintaining the building and facilities was becoming more expensive, due to the aging infrastructure," said Nancy Hollister, special projects manager and former president of the Betsey Mills Corporate Board.
She noted the buildings are still steam-heated from the original boiler system installed in the 1920s, and the electrical system is not up to par.
"When you look at those and other infrastructure issues, budgeting for the facility was becoming extremely difficult," Hollister explained. "So a couple years ago the board began looking at what we could do and had architect David Haught (with DLH Design, LLC) do an energy study on the buildings."
Using that study the board worked with the architect to develop plans for a series of renovations and updates to the facilities.
The upgrades, scheduled to begin as early as March 29, will include a complete electrical upgrade for all buildings, replacement of the boiler system and installation of heating and air conditioning in the Learning Tree rooms.
Other work will include renovation of the men's and women's locker rooms and installation of a new furnace and air system for the upstairs dorm rooms.
"We're so very grateful to our donors that we're able to begin this project after two years of planning," Hollister said.
Those donations included $58,200 from The McDonough Foundation; $25,000 from the Marietta Community Foundation; $100,000 in state funding; $16,000 from the Peoples Bank Foundation; and $250,000 from The Castle.
Linda Lewis, executive director of the Betsey Mills Club, said The Castle and Betsey Mills Club are part of the Betsey Mills Corp.
"We're sister organizations under the corporation," she said. "And through an investment fund The Castle was able to share a significant donation."
Castle Executive Director Scott Britton said the museum was fortunate to have the money available from a trust fund left by a previous owner of the facility.
"Through some transfers out of that fund we were fortunately able to provide funding to help the Betsey Mills Club which was facing some financial difficulties to do this project," he said.
Lewis said although the upgrades will be costly, most of the work will be on the buildings' infrastructure and won't be readily visible to the public.
"But we also wanted to preserve the historical integrity of these buildings, so we've worked closely with the Ohio Historical Society to develop this project," she said.
Hollister noted one portion of the project as originally envisioned included replacement of windows throughout the buildings.
"We had an original estimate of $1.4 million for everything, but part of that was replacing all of the windows which would be extremely expensive, so last year we removed that from the renovation budget," she said.
The windows replacement will likely be done as a future project, Lewis said.
She added services and programs offered at the Betsey Mills Club are not expected to see much impact during the construction period.
"There should be very minimal impact on services," she said. "And our day care center probably won't see any impact."
Work on the electrical system is expected to begin at the end of March, according to Hollister.
"The goal I have in mind is that everything would be done by the end of this year if things move along," she said.
"But this will be an ongoing story-it's just the beginning for the Betsey Mills Club's future."
Hollister said the public can also help support the club during its annual Chicken Pot Pie at the Betsey Mills Club fundraiser on Feb. 22-23.