Heritage Center restoration project in Springfield progressing

World War I style military helmets reside near a milk crate from the long defunct Springfield Dairy, while an old croquet set sits below a bulky 1904 mug shot camera used by the Springfield Police Department more than a century ago.

A seemingly random set of archival items are sharing temporary space as the Heritage Center of Clark County continues its restoration and reorganization following a flood caused by a burst sprinkler pipe on the building’s third floor in April led to structural damage to floors, walls and ceilings.

The greatest damage occurred on the second floor where the Heritage Center’s offices and archive reside, the third floor which houses the genealogy library as well as the Springfield Arts Council’s offices on the first floor. The Arts Council has temporarily relocated to the Springfield Museum of Art during the restoration.

Four of the seven rooms used for archived items just got new flooring and paint.

The goal is to have the archived items, currently in the Heritage Center’s 3,000-ft. Hellmuth Rotating Gallery on the second floor adjacent the archives and offices used for events and SantaLand each year, back open by mid September according to Natalie Fritz, Curator of Library and Archives.

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“It’s been a crazy four months. But the progress has been good,” she said.

The building was closed for a month following the water disaster, but the museum is open to the public as well as neighboring Un Mundo Café on the first floor. The Springfield Arts Council’s offices are still undergoing restoration and could open in October.

Historical Society CEO Roger Sherrock estimated it’s costing an estimated $150,000 to $200,000 for just the restoration on the second and third floors of the building, which was built in 1890, but it’s covered by insurance.

While the water damage has been tough and several years’ worth of cataloging was affected, the staff saw some silver linings. Of all the potential damage, the only casualty was a saucer that was broken but can be repaired and many of the clothing items and a painting had to be dried, but no losses.

Senior Curator Kasey Eichensehr credits acid-free archival boxes with preserving many of the items. There’s also the rediscovery of certain items; the center holds an estimated 200,000-250,000 artifacts.

“I’ve seen things I haven’t seen in years,” said Eichensehr, who has worked with the Historical Society since she was a Wittenberg student.

She’s used networking contacts to get some of the special boxes from other archives in the Dayton area. Many of those in the collection were obtained by a state-level grants and may be eligible other such grants now as well.

Eichensehr also breathed a sigh of relief in that the collection’s photos were undamaged. If they had been it would’ve meant pulling out each one, a major process.

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She figures it could take several years to get the collection fully archived again, but it’s also leading to rethinking some new items to be moved around.

Eichensehr credited the United Way, which also has offices in the building, with being supportive and gracious during the Historical Society’s work, along with six volunteers helping.

Fritz emphasized the Heritage Center will be ready for a busy fall season that will include the Junior Wizard Academy and second annual Wizard’s Ball in October, the organization’s annual gala in November and SantaLand, which opens during Holiday in the City in early December, all of which are in the Rotating Gallery.

The third floor genealogy library is accessible by appointment only.

In early 2020, the staff will move forward on projects stalled by the flood. Those future plans include redoing some of the annex and second floor exhibits, a potential five to seven-year process.

Director of Collections Virginia Weygandt, who has been with the Historical Society for 30 years and can describe about any artifact in the collection, sees it all as part of the job.

“We eat drink and sleep history,” she said, smiling.

For more information on the Heritage Center, go to www.facebook.com/clarkcountyhistory/.

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