Des Moines County Heritage Center opens in the former Burlington Public Library

Posted by mw on February 19th, 2009 4:55 pm

In less than a week, local residents will have a new place to celebrate their history when the Des Moines County Heritage Center opens its doors at 1 p.m. Saturday in the former Burlington Public Library.

“This is really exciting for us,” said Des Moines County Historical Society director Kelly Halbert.

Though the grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, the rest of the museum will open in phases. Dubbed “History with Heart,” the first of the four openings during the year will feature the grand gallery in the former reading room on the main floor, two exhibit areas, an open storage area and a gift shop in the lobby.

After an initial ribbon-cutting opening ceremony at 1 p.m., followed by a short program, visitors will be allowed to view the updates and roam the building, except for areas corded off that are still under renovation and construction.

Though the initial cost of renovation and exhibits was estimated at $500,000, the final price tag will be about $652,000. Halbert attributed the extra cost to unexpected construction.

“The slope of the back stairs had to be redone because of water problems, and the support beams in the stacks area were rusted through,” Halbert said.

Since the support beams help keep the entire building up, Halbert said it was vital they be repaired. Halbert said the cost of renovation already has been covered by donations and grants, but continual donations will be needed to keep the old building going.

One of the biggest costs for the DMCHS will be paying the heat and lighting bills. Halbert estimated that heating the building through winter will cost between $1,000 and $2,000 a month, but that was during the construction period when doors were left open for hours at a time.

Halbert said the historical society will ask for $5,000 from the city and $5,000 from the county annually to help with utility costs.

“That’s up to them. We’ll see what happens,” Halbert said.

The historical society has received $338,000 in state Vision Iowa grant funding, a $100,000 grant from the state Historical Site Preservation, a $75,000 federal Main Street grant and about $550,000 in private donations raised through the library campaign.
To find out more, go to: