The city plans to create a new museum and GPS guided tours
Jacksonville is planning a new museum in the old City Hall, along with GPS-guided walking tours of the history-rich city. [MT file photo]
Jacksonville is investigating what it might take to turn the 1881 old city hall at Main and Oregon streets into a museum building.
The City Council last week approved the action, which followed an investigation and report by Councilman Ken Gregg on what it would take to restore the museum’s features to the historic gold rush town.
Gregg considers the old City Hall to be one of the three parts of the museum. The other two would be GPS-guided walking tours throughout the city of historic structures and locations; and a website to see the history and stories about the city.
“The whole concept about the museum is that it’s not something that can be contained in brick and mortar buildings,” Gregg said. “The whole city is like a museum without walls. Its main features are found in buildings and structures and other areas such as gold mining spaces in the forest.”
Management and development plans for the museum are in the early stages, with the possibility of the nonprofit Historic Jacksonville Inc. reorganizing to oversee a museum, Gregg said. The nonprofit maintains the city-owned Beekman House and Beekman Bank under contract. The group also offers tours and events and offers a website with historical information.
The city’s financial stake in a museum would likely be minimal, Gregg said. In addition to allowing the use of Old City Hall, it would pay for the building’s insurance and utilities with City Council approval.
“In moving forward on this are we committing to any kind of (of) dollar amount?” Councilwoman Andrea Thompson asked at the Aug. 2 meeting.
At this point, the city will only make sure the building functions for museum purposes, City Manager Jeff Alvis responded. After that, a budget could be drawn up for the city’s participation in the project if councilors agree.
City officials will work with the planning department to determine if the proposed use is consistent with zoning codes for the area. An engineer or architect could be hired to evaluate the building, Alvis said.
Gregg has estimated the costs to convert the building based on guidelines provided by the National Park Service for older structures. The budget covers restoration and repair, handicap accessibility and other museum requirements.
The exterior work, including walls, doors, windows, entrance and landscaping, was estimated to cost $105,000. Interior ceiling, wall, lighting and bathroom work was estimated at $145,000. Additional expenses of $21,000 are anticipated for event furniture, display cases, script panels and folding chairs.
A free app called ECHOES, which uses smartphones, allows the devices to receive audio or text descriptions of a historic site when the phone’s GPS detects the location. For $375 a year, ECHOES would provide a museum with data on site use, which could help with planning, Gregg said.
Different types of tours are planned, including a large tour of the most notable historical element; themed tours such as homes or businesses; time-based tours; distance excursions; and a tour targeting the America With Disabilities Act. Visitors would also be able to explore randomly and their phones would notify them when they came across a historical feature.
A website would not only provide information about the history and people of the city, but also practical information about when places are open and other elements to help visitors.
The Historic Jacksonville Inc. website. it already offers information and could be incorporated into the museum’s site, said Gregg, who serves as the site’s webmaster. Website development, including branding, is estimated at $10,000 to $20,000. Annual maintenance could reach $2,000.
Grants are expected to be the main source of revenue for getting the museum up and running, Gregg said.
Alvis said the city’s urban renewal district could be a source of funding. Other sources could be the city’s allocation of lodging taxes and an increase in the parks and recreation fee to utility bills. Corporate sponsors will also be sought.
The museum would need a director. Carolyn Kingsnorth, president of Historic Jacksonville Inc., said one possibility could be a combined position with the city, which might consider an events clerk to manage the rental of the upstairs space at New City Hall.
“We’re a volunteer organization so we wouldn’t be in a position to run it,” Kingsnorth said. “It would take a bit of restructuring. It’s something that would have to be done in coordination with the city and maybe some organizations, maybe the chamber of commerce.”
The old city hall was in continuous use from its inception in 1881 until last year, when City Council sessions were moved to the new city hall, the former Jackson County Courthouse.
A rear attached to the building houses the Applebaker Fire Hall, which has the city’s first fire engine, as well as exhibits. In between is an area that was used as the city’s prison. The fire hall would fit into any museum, Gregg said.
Contact Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at email@example.com.
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