Offer accepted on Aberdeen Museum of History location

The Aberdeen Museum of History is zeroing in on a new home.

The Aberdeen Museum of History is zeroing in on a new home.

The city of Aberdeen’s offer on a new museum location has been accepted, the city’s museum board was told at their meeting earlier this week.

“We heard back from the property owner and they accepted the city’s offer,” said Stacie Barnum, Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Director, who serves as the city’s liaison to the board. “So that will be taken to the City Council next week at their meeting Nov. 10. So we are moving along.”

The location has not yet been divulged, other than it is downtown, nor has the offer amount as the deal still needs City Council approval. Also, the offer’s acceptance by the seller includes time for a building inspection.

“The acceptance of the offer includes 45 days for the city to do a feasibility study, which is similar I guess to a real estate inspection,” said Barnum. “Once the agreement is signed, the 45 days begins. So I would anticipate signatures probably Nov. 12, and the (City Council) meeting is on the 10th.”

If everything goes as planned, it’s important to remember it’s not as if the collection can be moved into a new location and be open to the public right away. There will be a great deal of work to do on the collection and likely the building itself before it can open to the public.

Volunteers

The move will require a lot of volunteer hours, and can be used to properly catalog the collection items. Board of Museum and History chair John Shaw recommended the board form an ad hoc committee to come up with a plan “for volunteer engagement with the collection going forward.”

Shaw also recommended the board site committee, that has been forwarding potential locations to the city since it was formed shortly after the armory fire, suspend its search activities with the acceptance of the new building offer and focus on “what we hope will be an eventual move and logistics as to how that might work with the city and staff and have them bring some ideas back to the next meeting.”

Shaw said the ad hoc committee would look at recommendations for moving the collection to a new building from the State Historical Society and others. That would include catching up with the collection database and reaching a point where volunteers could take on the move and collection documentation.

“The potential move creates this point in time for dealing with a collection that I think is going to be unique,” said Shaw. “We’ve been working toward needing to work on the collection, but heading toward a move is, I think, a great opportunity to knock down a couple of these issues by being smart about how we handle it, how we engage and bring in the Friends (of the Aberdeen Museum) and volunteers as part of that process.”

The Friends of the Aberdeen Museum handled the work of the old museum location site and are experienced in its collection and operation. Board members Randy Beerbower and Ruth Hamilton — who is also a member of the Friends — were selected to serve with Shaw on the ad hoc committee.

Fire apparatus

To many the centerpiece of the museum collection is the vintage fire apparatus. It was damaged in the fire, and the board and city have been looking at finding contractors to restore two of the pieces, the 1927 Ahrens-Fox pumper truck and the 1902 Metropolitan Steam pumper. A contractor has been found, and the board voted to move the contractor’s bid forward to the City Council for approval.

“We had an excellent response from Vintage Vehicle Restorations — they would have been at the top of our list anyway,” said board member George Donovan.

The restoration firm is located in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, and quoted a price of $120,000 to get the Ahrens-Fox pumper “back to pre-fire condition with the engine running and everything up to snuff,” said Donovan. To bring the 1902 Metropolitan back to similar condition would be $125,000, a total of $245,000.

That doesn’t include freight, which will need to be determined. The Ahrens-Fox can be shipped like most classic vehicles, while the wooden wheels, boiler and extremely heavy weight of the Metropolitan will add challenges to its shipping. Regardless, it’s going to be a long process.

“The estimated time to begin the project that they were able to deliver would be late next year, and the estimated time to complete the project would be four years,” said Donovan. “It’s a meticulous process, they have to repair and manufacture and acquire parts.”

The board voted to forward the bid to the City Council for consideration at its Nov. 10 meeting. When Hamilton asked about how the repairs would be funded, Shaw said the board was only directed to get bids for the restoration, it would be up to the City Council to decide how it would be funded.

When asked if the entire cost would be required up front, Barnum said the city typically pays installments, or “progress payments,” on such projects.

The 1927 Ahrens-Fox pumper truck was recovered from the Aberdeen armory fire in June 2018. Charred as it was, the engine still worked and it drove the Founder’s Day parade route a few weeks later. (John Shaw photo)

The 1927 Ahrens-Fox pumper truck was recovered from the Aberdeen armory fire in June 2018. Charred as it was, the engine still worked and it drove the Founder’s Day parade route a few weeks later. (John Shaw photo)

photo by John Shaw 
The 1902 Metropolitan Steam Pumper was damaged in the 2018 Aberdeen armory fire. A bid has come in to restore it and the 1927 Ahrens-Fox pumper truck, considered centerpiece items in the Aberdeen Museum of History collection.

photo by John Shaw The 1902 Metropolitan Steam Pumper was damaged in the 2018 Aberdeen armory fire. A bid has come in to restore it and the 1927 Ahrens-Fox pumper truck, considered centerpiece items in the Aberdeen Museum of History collection.