As the St. Clair Historical Museum prepares to open in its new, albeit temporary, location later this month, volunteer members are continuing to prepare and plan while also raffling a freezer full of meat in an attempt to help raise funds for their restoration and relocation projects.
A 14.8-cubic-foot Frigidaire freezer donated by Lowe’s in Washington containing $150 worth of meat from Lewis Cafe will be raffled during St. Clair’s Freedom Fest on Saturday, June 21, at Orchard Park. The winner need not be in attendance at the time of the drawing.
Tickets, which are available now through Freedom Fest, are two for $5 or 10 for $20. They can be purchased at St. Clair Health Mart Pharmacy, the Old Bus Stop Cafe and Lewis Cafe.
The St. Clair Historical Museum, 280 Hibbard St., was destroyed by a two-alarm fire on Sunday, Feb. 23. Museum President Carol Radford estimated that about 90 percent of its contents were lost.
Since the fire, Radford and other museum volunteers have been hard at work getting their temporary location ready to open. Shortly after the tragedy, St. Clair Health Mart Pharmacy owners Steve and Sue Lindemann donated the office space next to their business at 855 N. Commercial Ave. to the museum for six months.
Radford is hoping the museum will open its new doors on Saturday, May 24.
“We’ll be making a big push through next week to finish the heavy work,” Radford told The Missourian this week. “I’ve gone to garage sales and an auction picking up a few replacement items. A number of people have offered to donate items, so I think we’ve had a good response from the community.”
However, funds are needed to purchase, restore and replace damaged items that were salvaged as well as to provide a new, permanent building.
“It is the hope that the raffle will start a restoration movement that will gain in momentum,” museum Vice President Wanda Obermark said. “The history of St. Clair and surrounding area is rich with the heritage of mining, tourism as well as the Civil War and Route 66.
“As the museum rebuilds, it will continue to tell St. Clair’s story — with the help of the people and families who have kept the history of St. Clair alive.”
The historical society’s next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 13, at the Old Bus Stop Cafe, 545 N. Commercial Ave. Anyone interested in the museum is welcome to attend as members make the final preparations for the opening at the new location and continue to discuss future plans.
People do not have to be members to attend the meetings.
As many items as possible were salvaged from the fire wreckage. Exhibits that survived or that museum members believe can be rebuilt are the 1917 city of St. Clair diorama; the bank, post office and mining displays; the general store; Historic Route 66 information; and Odd Fellows, American Indian, African-American and the Moselle and Anaconda area displays.
Radford said a pair of file cabinets that contained some of the city’s vital historical documents and records were removed from the building during the fire and appear to be basically intact. She and fellow historian and Missourian columnist Sue Blesi had scanned most of the museum’s photos that were on display, so at least those images remain and are stored in backup form.
Exhibits that were destroyed were the Phoebe Hearst, the old school, Victorian parlor, kitchen, laundry, shoe factory, doctor’s office and pharmacy. All of those were upstairs in the two-story structure.
The building was razed the next day, and work on restoring the salvaged items and getting the new location ready has been the focus since.
During an earlier meeting, two museum committees were formed — a restoration group and a planning committee that will focus on the future of the museum and its exhibits, whether they be old, familiar ones or new ones.
A donation fund has been established at Farmers & Merchants Bank for individuals wishing to help the museum from a financial standpoint.
For more information, Radford can be emailed at email@example.com.