Independence's 1859 Jail & Marshal's Home Museum will look ugly this summer, as Caitlin Eckard puts it.
“But that's to make it look pretty for another 150 years,” says Eckard, the executive director of the Jackson County Historical Society.
The non-profit group, which was formed in 1959 to purchase and save the historic structure on Main Street, has identified a list of immediate repairs and maintenance for one of Independence's oldest buildings.
Those fix-ups range from brick masonry work in several spots, window restorations and repairing joists underneath the floorboards to repairing a downspout and the chimney. All told, more than $92,000 worth of work that the Historical Society Board has authorized for Pishny Restoration to do. The Historical Society has secured a $75,000 grant from the Sunderland Foundation toward that cost.
Strata Architecture – which specializes in historic preservation and renovation and has worked with historical groups around the area and state – examined the building to identify necessary work.
“It's deferred maintenance; we've seen it with other historic sites,” Eckard said, not necessarily referring to just Independence sites. “We're just building the best museum practices back into this building.”
Moisture that crept in over time caused many issues, Eckard said, including a corner near the staircase where plaster came off after the aforementioned downspout had been briefly removed several years ago. Restoring old windows is not cheap – about $2,500 per, Eckard said – so she hopes to have an adopt-a-window program to help defray that cost.
In one ceiling corner of the parlor area, the plaster has again come off, revealing the brick underneath. However, the blackened area of exposed brick there shows evidence of the fire that accompanied jailer Henry Bugler's murder in 1866. Eckard said she would like to simply cover that corner with some clear paneling, as it tells part of the building's history.
“I want to leave it a little exposed, because I think it's cool,” she said.
The big cost, though, will be a separate phase later – reconstructing the northwest corner of the building that has sagged a few inches. Two windows above a door there can't be repaired until the whole corner is fixed. The Historical Society previously addressed that area when it had the jail and marshal's home restored 60 years ago. Strata's historical structure is not yet complete, but right now that cost is estimated at $221,000.
“The settling is pretty typical; it's just something we have to take care of,” Eckard said.
As for the jail itself, it will not need to be fixed, as the cells' limestone walls remain very much intact.
Visitors to the museum this summer might see boarded-up windows or floorboards removed to do work underneath, but Eckard said she still believes it will be a worthwhile tour, and could perhaps spur more community investment.
“I think it will give people the opportunity to see what's going on,” Eckard said, “that we are doing something with this place.”