Heads of the Porter County Heritage Corporation said they will soon launch a
campaign to raise the estimated $2 million needed to renovate the former
Valparaiso Police Station across from the Porter County Courthouse into a
new museum of science, art and history.
At last week’s Valparaiso Board of Public Works and Safety meeting, the city
approved a lease for the heritage corporation to rent the building for at
least 25 years with two renewal options for $1 per year.
Executive Director of the Porter County Museum of History Kevin Pazour said
the city agreed to the low lease, seeing the potential enhancements a
“world-class” museum would bring to its downtown square.
“I think (Valparaiso) saw the benefit in what we are trying to do, bringing
new life to that area. It’s going to be a great thing for all of Porter
County,” Pazour said.
The targeted opening date is late 2014.
Pazour said the heritage corporation will still maintain the museum’s
current location, the Old Jail building at 153 Franklin St. in Valparaiso
adjacent to the Memorial Opera House. Once the new building opens, the Old
Jail museum will exhibit more period pieces where rooms will be decorated to
create the look of a specific space in time, from the 1860s to the 1930s and
beyond. While there was talk last year by the Porter County Commissioners to
bridge the Old Jail museum with the Opera House to create a historic music
venue, Pazour said that idea has since been abandoned.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Heritage Corporation Paul
Bartholomew said these are “pretty exciting times” with the potential for
the museum to grow and those on the board are turning their energy towards
getting the new building ready for operation.
The non-profit heritage corporation was formed more than two years ago to
operate the museum using donations collected from private sources instead of
public tax money.
The trustees, in the meantime, will continue the new wave of hosting
temporary exhibits at the Old Jail Museum such as “Masks” which opened in
November and “Tools of the Trade” which is set to open in the next few
“There will be a good number of exhibits in the next few years to get more
people excited about the museum’s ideas. They can see what the potential is
and what we have to offer,” said Bartholomew. “We hope our collections
reflect the history of Porter County and the people of Porter County.
History is nothing but a story and we have thousands of stories to tell.”
Bartholomew said most of the contributions for the revamp will come from
business and individual donors in the county. He believes the $2 million
goal is reachable due to its cultural and educational elements.
Education is one of the bigger roles the heritage corporation wishes to
advance, bringing museum experiences to local school children and getting
residents acquainted with their history, Bartholomew said. Valparaiso
University has been assisting the museum in its outreach.
Pazour said the City of Valparaiso “in its good graces” agreed to cover
utility expenses for five years at the former police station. The city will
maintain ownership of the former police station just as the county does for
the Old Jail museum and the heritage corporation will be responsible for its
design and construction.
The Valparaiso Board of Public Works has suggested the building’s exterior
work could be paid for with a matching façade grant of up to $25,000.
In another matter, Pazour said the “Tools of the Trade” exhibit is
tentatively scheduled to open on Feb. 26 at the Old Jail museum. The museum
is closed for this week while the staff works to replace a boiler.