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Friday, 21 October 2016 09:21

Footville church renovated into museum, community center

Written by  Dennis Hines
Luther Valley Historical Society members Tom Skinner and Kay Demrow look over a stained glass window that was salvaged from the former Footville United Methodist Church. The historical society is renovating the former church, 121 Janesville St., for use as a museum and community center. Luther Valley Historical Society members Tom Skinner and Kay Demrow look over a stained glass window that was salvaged from the former Footville United Methodist Church. The historical society is renovating the former church, 121 Janesville St., for use as a museum and community center. Terry Mayer

JANESVILLE MESSENGER -- The Luther Valley Historical Society hopes to breathe new life into an old church.

The historical society is renovating the former Footville United Methodist Church into a museum that will feature Footville historical artifacts, including documents, photographs, clothing, musical instruments, school furniture and church artifacts. Several of the items will come from the historical society’s Footville State Bank Restoration and Archive Museum and Footville Telephone Dial Building.

Kay Demrow, treasurer of the Luther Valley Historical Society, said several residents also have offered to donate items for the museum.

“We’ve got a lot of small things. There will probably be people bringing in their family treasures,” Demrow said. “I think I can fill the cases with something of interest. The display cases are going to be on wheels, so they can be moved for a function that we might have.

“We have two really old organs that have been donated already. If somebody was going to donate an old grandfather clock, we would take it ...  We’re going to have a lot of pictures at the museum. We’re going to have pictures of Hanover and Orfordville from about 100 years ago.”

The lower level of the museum will be used as a community center to  host classes, Scout meetings, community events and family reunions, she said.

“Footville doesn’t have a community center, and we just felt we really would be helping the community by having a place where they could do things,” Demrow said. “There’s so much that we could do with this that it makes you really excited.”

Before the museum becomes a reality, repairs must be made to the windows, walls and floorboards. There’s painting to do and the basement still needs renovation, Demrow said.

The society already has renovated the roof and ceiling and has completed some of the electrical work, at a cost of $60,000 so far, she said.

“When it’s $8,000 for windows and 93 hours to plaster and paint the ceiling, it just adds up really quick,” Demrow said. “Electrical work will be like $10,000.”

Tom Skinner, Luther Valley Historical Society board member, said he’s looking forward to seeing the final product after all the work is done.

“It’s quite a challenge. It’s quite a project,” Skinner said. “It’s going to look beautiful.”

Demrow said she hopes enough work will be done to host a Veterans Day event at the museum on Nov. 10.

“(The historical society’s) meeting is Nov. 10 and Veterans Day is Nov. 11, so I thought it would be a nice time to open it up. We’ve got heat, we’ve got lights,” Demrow said. “Everybody says it’s not possible, but it is possible if they come together and get excited about it and get it done.”

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The historical society purchased the church building from the Parkview School District in July 2015. The idea for converting the old church into a museum came about after historical society members learned that the fire department was going to use the building for training.

“We thought, ‘They can’t burn our history,’ so we decided to make a bid on it and make it into a museum,” Demrow said. “We approached the school board and put in a bid for $1, and they said it would cost $25,000 to get it ready and remove the refuse, so we figured we were saving them $25,000 for taking it off their hands.

“We found out that somebody had put in a bid, so we submitted a bid of $4,000. Someone else submitted a bid of $10,000. Someone in the community didn’t want the building to be torn down for apartments and wanted it to be used for a museum, so he donated the difference. The school board had the option of choosing which $10,000 bid to take, and they chose ours.”

The Footville United Methodist Church was built in 1846. The church closed in 1995 when members decided to merge with a church in Orfordville. The Parkview School District then took over the building and used it for storage.

“It was built so there was a basement underneath it, and it also was used for a school. All of the children went to school in the basement of the church until 1876, then in 1876 it burned,” Demrow said. “So, then the school built their own school, and (the congregation) rebuilt the church, so it remained the same until 1921 when they decided to raze it and put a basement back underneath it, then it stayed the same.”

Demrow said there is no set timeline for when the museum will be completed but hopes that it will be open on a regular basis after renovations.

“I hope we can find someone who is interested enough to have it open three times a week or by appointment,” Demrow said. “It also would depend on when there’s activities in the basement. It would be open when there’s an event. I would think there would be someone in the building every day.”

The Luther Valley Historical Society currently operates the Footville Company Telephone Museum and Restoration, Footville Telephone Dial Building and Footville State Bank Restoration and Archive Museum.

“We’re not closing any of our buildings,” she said. “We’re just going to be adding building No. 4.”

Volunteers are needed to help with the renovations. Anyone who is interested in helping can call Demrow at 608-752-1104.

“I’m glad that we have the support that we do have, but we could use more,” she said. “We could always use more volunteers.”

Despite some of the challenges, Demrow said she has enjoyed being involved with the project.

“I think it’s a challenge, and I get really excited about it,” she said.

A fundraiser for the renovation project will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at Footville Church of Christ, 117 Church St.

The historical society will host Judy’s Funny Fashion Show, a fashion show with a comedic twist.

“If they say something is 16 karats, it will be 16 carrots. (Judy) will have a potato sack on, so she will be a “common tater,’” Demrow said. “It’s going to be a fun program that’s going to make people laugh.”



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