The steel skeleton of the new Fulton County Historical Museum is being raised, and the building’s architect said the project is on schedule.
Construction began in August on the approximately 7,000 square-foot space that will house museum exhibits, ancillary offices, a reading area, and storage. It is expected to be available for use by January 2018, and the completed museum is scheduled to open that spring.
Concrete work was finished in November, and preliminary work for parking lot lights is done. The project’s contractors hope to have the framework completed some time in December, before the seasonal weather becomes more inclement.
The museum’s exterior design originated with Director John Swearingen Jr. and the Fulton County Commissioners. Meant to pay homage to the community, it incorporates an exterior replica of the county’s original 1851 Greek Revival Ottokee Courthouse connected to a traditional barn-like facade.
Fifteen interior timeline exhibits and galleries will include the Introduction Wall, a photomural celebrating 12 pioneering county men and women, one from each township; Resourceful Residents, remnants of centuries of daily living from what is now the county; and Destiny Discovered, covering the years between 1796-1819.
Swearingen said while the museum is being built with $1 million provided by the state, local fundraising continues for another $1 million to construct permanent interior exhibits. So far, nearly $400,000 dollars in corporate and private donations have been collected.
The museum will be part of a complex on State Route 108 across from the Fulton County Fairgrounds and near the State Route 108 Ohio Turnpike exit that includes a welcome center, county offices, and Ohio Department of Transportation facilities.
Meanwhile, plans are being formed to convert the present historical museum at 229 Monroe St. in Wauseon into the Wauseon History Manor. Its rooms will be renovated to display examples of the building’s previous incarnations, including an 1885 high school, a 1905 home, a 1925 hospital, and a 1945 apartment building. The museum already has furnishings in storage for the displays.
Called a house museum, “It will be 100 percent Wauseon,” Swearingen said, although it will still be operated through Fulton County.
The Monroe Street museum site will close in Nov. 1, 2017, in order to make the location transition. An opening date for Wauseon History Manor has not been scheduled; cost estimates for the renovations are still being sought.
Swearingen said after consulting with other museums that made similar transitions to new buildings, the Fulton County Historical Society decided to continue utilizing the present museum.
“They all regretted getting rid of the old museum. We don’t want to make that mistake,” he said.
The new museum project across from the Fulton County Fairgrounds carries a special meaning for Brent Buehrer, co-architect of the project with his brother, Kent. Their grandmother, Meta Huber Buehrer, was the oldest living county resident when she died in 2006 at age 109. Their father, Huber Buehrer, was raised on County Road H and attended a one-room Ottokee school house.
“Literally, where the (new museum) site is, my father would walk to the one-room school house and go by the site every day,” Buehrer said.
Huber Buehrer, who was also an architect, graduated from Wauseon High School in 1945 and became a member of its Academic Hall of Fame.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.