A progress report on restoration efforts on the former 1920s train depot was given to the Osage County Historical Society Museum Board of Directors by Terry Loftis of J&L Associates on Aug. 1.
The restoration is the result of an early morning fire on Jan. 9. While damage was limited to the central storage area, the structure sustained extensive smoke damage. Like the legendary Phoenix, this historic museum is rising from the ashes and will ultimately become a shining jewel of the Osage and a tourist destination.
Structural repairs have been completed. All traces of the fire have been removed and rotten wood replaced. The new, open-concept features numerous upgrades, such as new wiring, museum-quality lighting, three climate-controlled HVAC units and a much-needed 1,920 sq. ft. annex.
Loftis explained the first phase of the project is completion of the annex which will serve as the main intake area for re-entry of valued artifacts. The annex’s stained-concrete floor will receive three coats of clear sealer. Careful attention to "old-style" methods will ensure the façade of the annex perfectly blends in with the original structure.
"I’ve had people ask me about the gray stuff on the outside of the annex," said Loftis. "That gray stuff is thick plaster that was applied by hand. It will be covered with a top coat and then painted. We feel very fortunate the metal siding and paint matches so closely."
Following his update, Loftis applauded the Museum Directors for entrusting his firm with this endeavor.
"I want to thank each and every one of you and the board as a whole for entrusting us with this project and relying on our expertise."
Loftis also expressed his appreciation to Museum Manager Barbara Pease and staff member Rhonda Kohnle.
"Barbara worked extensively with the electricians on what amount of lighting was needed and where it should go," said Loftis. "Rhonda Kohnle was indispensable in assisting Barbara. I would certainly encourage each of you to recognize their efforts. These ladies have been almost like the museum’s architects on this project in helping my firm."
Because of the sensitivity of museum artifacts, Loftis personally assured the directors that the HVAC units were not operating at full capacity — just enough for workers to complete their tasks. Before the annex or main area is released for occupancy, Loftis said all units will be cleaned, filters changed and duct work reamed to eliminate any traces of construction dust. He said this is not a normal process but essential considering the value of the artifacts and that many items will be stored in the annex when not on display.
OCHS President Shoemate was impressed with how well the Loftis team worked together and the efficiency with which they applied stain to the solid oak, fire-rated doors. Again, Loftis referred to the "old way" of construction and finishing.
"Using a rag stain allows the grain of the wood to pop," said Loftis.
The 8" baseboards were custom-made out of poplar and will be painted to match the walls. Loftis explained that in a museum setting, the focus should be on the exhibits and not the floor trim. He also said the high ceilings contribute to the openness of the display area.
"I actually have a knife in my shop’s fire-proof safe labeled OCHS," said Loftis. "I had it made in order to cut the baseboards. The finishing work we did for this renovation looks more like a custom-home."
Loftis said he applied similar custom touches when his company renovated Pawhuska’s historic City Hall.
Barring unforeseen delays, the projected completion date for the annex is by the end of August or before Labor Day. This will provide necessary space for re-entry of the exhibits. Loftis said they hope to have the main area completed by the first of October but that he hopes to beat that by at least two weeks. Basically, all major work has been done. The painters began working on the main portion of the museum this week. Loftis was delighted the museum did not sustain any damage from recent storms.
"We did not have a single shingle blow off or one leak. From all the rain and wind we have had lately, that is pretty good," Loftis said.