Tower Reflections: A History
As we look back, we are amazed at our audacity in taking on such a daunting project as a separate tower for an elevator and an essential second set of fire stairs. We realized that the future of the museum depended on our ability to use the building to its fullest extent. That necessitated a second egress from all floors, hence the fire stairs and an ability to provide access to those who could not navigate our stairways, hence, the elevator. An additional bonus was that the elevator would facilitate creating new displays and programs by using it for heavier and bulkier displays. More displays and programs meant enticing more people to visit our museum; participation by members, visitors and general supporters is the backbone of every museum.
After our star-gazed start, reality began to set in. The initial size of the tower needed to increase by 20% as we had to switch the placement of the elevator cab and the fire stairs due to sandy, unstable sub-soil. This increased the cost by about 20%, but we felt it was essential to proceed. Various “work order” changes, although each relatively small, added at least another $15,000. Problems with water leaks in the existing building, related to the tower’s connection, were also costing us more money. But the truly unexpected cost – $28,500 – was the fire protection upgrade mandated by becoming fully accessible.
We were able to cover those added costs, but every penny took away from the elevator cab itself. We applied for all grants that were available to us. Unfortunately, our project did not qualify for any historical preservation grants, as it was new construction – even though we were preserving the integrity of our historic building, listed on the National Register. We were fortunate to receive an $18,000 grant from Vermont Cultural Facilities Coalition and the State of Vermont, a $1000 grant from the Walter Cert Community Fund of the VT Community Foundation and two gifts, each $10,000, from the Town of Ludlow through the Enterprise Fund.
As soon as the fire protection upgrade was completed the museum’s third floor was once again open to visitors. Additionally, the second floor increased occupancy allowed the museum to host many more guests attending various events and programs.
We are proud that we were able to raise all the funds necessary to complete the elevator/fire-stair tower and, in addition, help the museum be more financially stabile through its ability to reach a wider audience. The museum is preserving and conserving artifacts from the local Black River Valley area. And as vitally important is that the museum is reaching out to the surrounding community, especially through school programs that we hope will instill an ongoing enjoyment of history. All museums need the future support of today’s youth.