Work is progressing on the capital campaign that seeks to restore the two upper floors of the Ellis County Museum. To date, donors have committed more than $600,000 of the $2.8 million needed for the restoration project. 

Building Restoration and Capital Campaign Committee member Harold Barnard said the idea of restoring the two upper floors first started with the desire to have an elevator in the building. 

“Late in 2017, there were five or six of us that started talking about how great it would be to have an elevator,” he said. “The whole year of 2018 we have met regularly. We have hired Architexas and have met with them on numerous occasions to put together a plan. 

“That led to a fundraising mode in which we are in the very early stages,” he said. “This is a huge goal to raise $2.8 million. None of us has ever done this before but I think we are making great progress – and we are working hard. We have a board and an advisory committee that is 100 percent committed.” 

Architexas provides a broad range of services encompassing architecture, planning and historic preservation, according to its website. Previous projects undertaken in Ellis County by the firm include the restoration of the historic Ellis County Courthouse and development of the city of Ennis’ downtown master plan. 

“Architexas prepared a historic structure report and master plan for the historic 1889 Ellis County Museum (formerly the Masonic Lodge) in Waxahachie, Texas,” the firm’s website notes about the museum project. “Even though the building has had served different functions, it had remained incredibility intact. Deterioration problems, aging infrastructure and the fact that the facility did not meet most of the basic standards of accessibility, safety and functionality were the biggest challenges with the building and museum. 

“Because of the museum’s significance and presence in the community, the client desired to preserve the building and allow it to serve as a multifunctioning community building while accommodating contemporary museum needs and functions,” the website reads.

Architexas performed a comprehensive existing facilities survey for the museum to determine the building’s condition, recommended alterations for the long-term preservation of the building and further defined the current preservation and restoration goals of the museum. It has also provided cost estimates along with a phasing strategy. 

At this time, there is not an estimate when the project would start but one of the first steps would be to install an elevator, which would not be installed inside the building but, rather, on the outside at the rear of the structure. 

Museum board president Glinda Felty said the third floor of the building houses the former hall of the Masonic Lodge, which moved out of the building in 1926. She noted this space could be used for special events, with a catering kitchen created in an adjoining room. The catering kitchen would not have cooking facilities but would allow food to be brought into the event space. 

The second floor is made up of eight rooms, Felty said, noting that these rooms were once used for offices but could be used for expansion and allow the museum to work with children.

Museum director Shannon Simpson said Architexas has completed a new set of master plans for the utilization of the entire building and is working on construction plans as well.  

The building has been assessed for lead paint and asbestos, he said, noting that no asbestos was found but lead paint was. The lead paint can be encapsulated to where it won’t pose a problem, Simpson said.

For more information about the museum and its capital campaign, email Simpson at ecmuseum@sbcglobal.net

The Ellis County Museum is located at 201 S. College St. in downtown Waxahachie. The museum is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

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