Crook County Historical Society announces purchase of neighboring building, plans to expand

by: PLAN COURTESY OF CROOK COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY - A draft of the A.R. Bowman Museum expension shows what is planned for the expanded museum.  The new building will add 4,800 more square feet to the museum, as well as new exhibits.

The A.R. Bowman Museum on 3rd Street and Main in Prineville is stuffed to the gills with history. It's so full, in fact, that it will soon be expanding into the building next door, which is currently home to Simmons Realty.
   The quaint, two-story building was built in 1910 and has housed the museum since 1971.
   "We are filled to the maximum here at the museum, and it has been here for the last 37 years," said Curator Gordon Gillespie.
   The idea for expanding the museum came about in the mid-1990s, when members of the Crook County Historical Society tentatively began negotiations with the Simmons, who own the building on 238 N Main Street. But according to Gillespie, "they were happy where they were, so it just didn't work out."
   Last year, however, Simmons Realty decided to build an office across the street, so the cards fell into place for the museum. In the current structure, glass cases filled with remnants of Crook County's past crowd the aisles, and every available nook and cranny has been utilized for storage.
   "That space is huge compared to ours," Gillespie said.
   The Simmons building measures around 4,800 square feet, almost double the size of the first floor of the Bowman Museum, which comes in at around 1,960 square feet.
   The current museum will remain in operation, although Gillespie is unsure what will be done with it.
   "Once we see what we can get over here, we will renovate it somewhat, too," he said, emphasizing that admission to the museum will remain free.
   Gillespie and the historical society have big ideas for the new space and he stated the plan is literally to "clean it out and start all over."
   The expansion will include a major timber exhibit as an homage to Crook County's rich industrial heritage.
   "We've already started to work with somebody on developing that exhibit," Gillespie said.
   It will also contain a research library twice the size of the current museum's, a large community room in the front, a climate-controlled collection care center for the museum's vast collection of archives, and a small theater where videos of local history will be shown. The outside of the building will receive a contemporary facelift as well.
   Gillespie has talked with a local builder and architect, and the price estimate for the expansion will not be cheap.
   "The purchase of the building, all the renovations, and developing some really professionally done exhibits is going to cost us roughly $1.5 million," he said.
   Some of the funding will come from the historical society, as well as grants from historical foundations, Gillespie explained. The society has also formed a capital campaign committee, which has been in effect for about six months.
   "They're the ones that have developed all the plans and all the strategies for raising the rest of the money," Gillespie said.
   He guessed that it will take the rest of the year to raise the money for the renovation, but hopes to start work the in spring of 2009.
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