New look coming for Prairie Village Museum exterior
The exterior of the Prairie Village Museum in Rugby will look more like a town from North Dakota’s early days thanks to a remodel project by Wayne’s Construction and area donors.
Museum Executive Director Jennifer Willis said the project began with a design by artist Terry Jelsing in 2017 but ran into delays caused by changes in museum directors, a global pandemic and shortages of construction materials.
“We’re using cedar for the facade,” Willis said. “Originally, it was planned for cedar all the way down but I kind of wanted to have it a little different feel for each building,” she added, describing how the buildings in front of the museum complex seem to run together with the current design.
The front of the complex is a row of white buildings, with the name of the museum painted in red letters above a building housing the machinery shed. Willis said visitors become confused sometimes and try to enter the museum through the machinery shed.
The name of the museum will go on a new metal sign made by Fritel’s Custom Design. The sign will be placed over the entrance to the main building, eliminating confusion.
“There are still some things that have to be tweaked (on the main building’s exterior),” Willis said. “The front still needs painting where the metal is and there’s some metal trim to be finished.”
Willis said the new design “will keep going what we have in the back.” Each building making up part of the museum’s front will receive an exterior reminiscent of pioneer days on the prairie.
“This is a mockup of what we hope to have someday,” Willis said, pointing to an architectural drawing of the exterior. “Terry Jelsing drew this.”
Willis said Wayne Schmaltz of Wayne’s Construction would begin a second section of building the week of July 26. “That’s my goal,” she added.
Willis said of the project’s funding, “We received some funds from a private donor and we’ve gotten some grants along the way. Some of them helped with a new roof for this building.”
Past donations have paid for a new roof, new ceiling and lighting in the main building, Willis said.
“We did get a new roof put on the depot,” Willis added. “We had some extra roofing material left over and another donor picked up the tab and we’ve got enough shingles to work on our land office, and that’s halfway done.”
Another project paid for by a generous donation from Merchants Bank in Rugby was the restoration of the Brown Street Clock, which will go on display at the museum after the project is finished.
Willis said the flurry of new construction comes just before a busy time at the museum.
“One thing we have coming up on August 15 Is Dennis Miller and Richard Budd, who will come out and do a ham radio demonstration,” Willis said. “It would be great if people would come out for that. It will happen 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.”
“August 22 is the Village Fair,” Willis added. “We’re going to have blacksmithing demonstrations and a fur trapper. Then of course, we’re going to have pickles on a stick, penny candy, root beef floats and ice cream. People love pickles on a stick. We’re going to have food trucks: Henry’s 90 Weight will be here; and the Sweet Prairie food truck will be here.” Willis said the Sweet Prairie food truck sells sweets and candy along with snacks such as street tacos.
“We’re hoping to show silent films from the early 1900s,” Willis added.“I’m hoping they’ll be continuously running. They’re only 10 to 15 minute movies, so you’ll have a chance to catch something while you’re cooling down. I’ve even found the original ‘Alice in Wonderland.'” Willis said of the silent film collection. “It’s kind of amusing when you compare it to now.”
“Then, of course Village Arts will help us by having actors walk around in costume,” Willis added.
“Next month, I’ll be getting a new exhibit in the gallery,” Willis added. “There’s a gentleman from Minot, Rayson Renfrow. His exhibit is “Dumpling Soup in Fridge.” There are 16 prints he’ll be showing,” Willis said. “Then, he has another exhibit called “Window Shopping,” Willis said.
Willis said lectures at the museum might come back in the future as the COVID crisis wanes in Pierce County, noting people still seemed reluctant to gather in crowds. “Our numbers are still a little bit down from previous years,” Willis said of museum visitors. “We’re getting better, but we’re still not up to where we were in 2019.”
“It also seems like a lot of people are getting out of town on weekends,” Willis added, noting people seemed to want to enjoy traveling after quarantining in 2020.
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