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Submitted by Judy Sharp
Oh, what an exciting week this was in the current timeline of the Downing Depot Museum!
It all began on Monday, March 16, 2020. The Military Room is being rebuilt at the north end of the east side of the depot, beginning where the storage area has been. The new room will be built at ground level, lengthened, and heightened. More lighting will be installed, improving the visibility of all that is displayed. There will be a place for you to sit and view the veterans’ collections to your heart’s content. Because, not only will you not have to climb stairs to reach the room, but the door will be wide enough for those with wheelchairs to have easy access.
The uniforms, military memorabilia and the displayed articles from the adjacent Family Room are currently spread neatly over the two other rooms. We hope to have it mostly back together, and at least close to finished, by the time the Smorgasbord rolls around so that you can enjoy the Downing area history of our forebears.
Here’s a rundown of what the depot building has gone through during its lifetime.
1872 – Depot built by the railroad.
1976 – Depot building moved. Refurbished to become Downing Depot Museum.
1977 – Museum opens.
1979 – Lighting improved in two rooms.
1981 – Building added to the National Register of Historical Sites.
1982 – Veterans Room built on two-thirds of the platform in the sales room.
1984 – Outside of depot building painted.
1985 – Cement floor poured onto sales room dirt floor area.
1999 – Original bricks laid in front of depot as walkway.
2002 – Original tin roof replaced with shingles.
2018 – Storm damage; replaced depot roof.
2020 – Right now: Demolition of platform and Veterans Room in original sales room. Cement floor poured and new military room built.
Monday the ceiling, walls, and floor/platform were removed. You will no longer have those steps to go up again. Things are being turned-upside-down, transformed, overhauled, revolutionized, reshuffled, restyled, renewed, revamped, renovated, and transmogrified.
- Do you remember the look of the Military Room? Keep it in mind, because it will never be that way again. Here’s outside of the Veteran’s Room, with most items removed from the outside wall, as it was between 1983 and 2020.
- Jim Sharp unlocking the door to move more of the military collection into other rooms of the Museum while it is under construction. Note the writing on the walls from many years ago. Over the years the depot’s sales room has been used by many a person who thought they needed to record their presence. I call it “Wall Writings.” And have taken pictures of most of it. Here is some of the writings in the sales room. You may be able to see the date of 7/17/1901 at the center left of this picture.
- Stored items on the old platform storage area of the Family Room. The loom was made for the two young Prime girls, granddaughters of James Prime who was one of the early settlers of Downing, before it was Downing. The girls made many rugs on this loom to cover the floors of their future homes. The manikins will be reused in the Family Room with some of the Museum’s clothes collection when the room is ready to set up displays again.
- Jim Sharp preparing to stain the plywood at the top of the old sales room, now the Family Room of the Downing Depot Museum.
More progress seen Tuesday with Leo and his crew digging the footings and having the cement poured and checked on it until late. Everyone left it alone Wednesday until about 4 p.m., when Jim and I hit the three walls with the shop vac. We cleaned up to about 15 feet high in the area that will be covered by new walls, thus getting rid of between 38- and 148-year-old dust bunnies, cobwebs, mouse nests, and mud-dauber nests. It was nice to do it at this time of year, when there are no spiders or wasps around to deal with.
- The walls before cleaning with the floor partly prepared for cement.
- Clean walls and poured cement ready for construction.
- A lot of miscellaneous nails have been removed from the walls, but only about five square nails have been found in our removal process. We also took the old school chalkboard off the wall. It was very heavy, and as I had suspected it was made of one piece of slate, 52 x 44 inches. The front was so smooth, but on the back, you could see the saw blade marks. It was amazing. We’ll replace the weak and deteriorating frame on it and rehang it in the education display.
- The original wood used for the walls and platform was interesting. Some of it was soft and looked yellowish and maybe moldy. Turns out that wood was cottonwood (see picture). When it is moist it tends to deteriorate in this way. I hope my photo shows what it’s like. And you should see the size of some of the cut wood used in the building. I was impressed that they found that big of pine and cottonwood trees back in the 1870s.
- Thursday morning there was rain and a thunderstorm, but construction began at about 8:15. By mid-afternoon the north and east walls were framed out and we discussed the progress with Leo. With good weather expected on Friday the crew will be working outside on another project. That’s how construction is scheduled in Missouri with the variable Spring weather. They’ll be back next week, if “the creek doesn’t rise” and COVID-19 doesn’t catch anyone.
At this time, thanks go out to:
- Lancaster Lumber for a discount on materials.
• Leo Holton and his crew of Howard Holton, Brett Smith, and Caleb Cunningham, the process has started. They helped move some very big items before they demo’d the existing structure.
• Jerry, John, and Sarah Scurlock for being the clean-up crew and hauling off discarded material that can’t be reused.
• Steve Blessing in advance, for installing the electrical system.
• Jim Sharp for staining the upper wall in the Family Room and for helping get all the displays and collections relocated and prepared for cleaning and reorganization.
• And big thanks to all the background people for their support and who keep the rest of us going behind the scenes.
• And last but not least, the Museum’s Board of Directors for supporting this improvement project.
(per Jim—and let’s not forget Judy’s work in keeping you apprised of the progress, history, and news of what’s been happening)
And you wonder who’s paying for this? Yes, this does require us to spend some of the Museum’s operating fund. But honestly, don’t you agree it’s important to preserve this building that was built in 1872 (!?!) and be better able to display, collect, and share the wealth of military history that has been so generously shared from the many families related to Downing?
Of course, you know we have our annual Smorgasbord fundraiser in early June, but there’s a slim chance it may be cancelled or postponed this year. So, if you have the urge to celebrate with us now, and if you’re inspired to donate toward the Museum’s progress with this project, it would certainly ease the impact on our funds and would be most appreciated. You can even stop by for a personal tour.
Questions? Interested in the construction progress? Call Judy Sharp at 660-342-1454, or Jerry or Margaret Scurlock at 660-379-2467, or Carol or Don Scurlock at 641-929-3915.