Museum will get its new ceiling
Council completes funding for the project
Photo provided by Tonya Cubby The condition of the ceiling is evident with patches that have been made throughout the years.
The tin ceiling and the plaster behind it will be replaced over the next two months.
The West Milford Museum is located at 1477 Union Valley Road, just across from the township hall. It is closed during the ceiling replacement.
West Milford Museum's Timeline
1861 - Methodist Church is built
1911/12 - Township of West Milford buys the building and it becomes the first town hall
1958 - Current town hall built; building becomes an annex
1976 - The idea of turning the building into a museum is ignited
1999 - Renovations begin on the building
2000 - The West Milford Museum opens
2004 - Air conditioning added
2005/06 - Windows are added
2014 - Ceiling will be replaced
BY LINDA SMITH HANCHARICK
WEST MILFORD — Construction will soon begin at the West Milford Museum on replacing the plaster and tin ceiling that has deteriorated over nearly a century.
The township council agreed last month to provide $15,000 to the volunteer Heritage Committee that runs the museum for the project. The museum receives no funding from the town for its operating expenses.
According to Tonya Cubby, a committee member, the group received seven bids for the project, the lowest being $58,9000 from LKL Contracting of Ramsey; the highest was $243,000. The committee was short about $15,000 of that low bid. Councilman Lou Signorino, also a member of the committee, asked the council to provide the needed funds. He said the Heritage Committee had the funds at one time but the township used it for another purpose.
"The committee had accumulated funds for this purpose but the township used the funds for another purpose," said Signorino.
He said the money could come out of either the Facilities Fund or the Open Space Fund. Last year, township voters agreed to use up to a third of the open space funds collected beginning this year for historic buildings. This project could qualify for that. Each year, the township collects about $150,000 via the open space tax.
"Long time coming"
Signorino said this ceiling project is a long overdue.
"This ceiling is the big thing," he said. "It's a long time coming. We've replaced the windows, the roof is not too old. I think the ceiling will put us in a good spot."
The ceiling is made of tin, however, underneath the tin is decaying plaster. Signorino said the tin is also deteriorated and pieces are in jeopardy of coming lose. Some sheetrock repairs have been done over time but more needs to be done.
A renewed interest in history
Cubby said this is the last of the major renovations to be done to the building, which was built in 1861. This was the original Methodist Church. When the church moved to a new location, the township bought the building for a nominal fee and it became West Milford's first town hall in 1911 or 1912, she said. The current town hall was built in 1958 and the old building was used as an annex and later as storage. The current town hall expanded and eventually, the older building was left vacant.
It was the nation's bicentennial in 1976 that sparked a renewed interest in history, Cubby said, and the idea to turn the old town hall into a museum was born.
Over the next nine years the Heritage Committee was formed and artifacts collected for the museum. It took 10 years to talk the town into renovating the building. Major renovatiions began in 1999. They did it in phases. In 2000, the museum finally opened. Air conditioning was installed around 2004 and windows were added in 2005 or 2006.
The township pays the utilities for the building and provides grass cutting. Other than that, the Heritage Committee raises the bulk of the money to run the museum with its annual tennis tournament. It is totally run by volunteers.
The museum is now closed in anticipating of construction beginning by the end of January. Committee members are cataloguing and moving exhibit materials in preparation. The construction is estimated to take about two months to complete. The museum will reopen after that.
For more information about the museum, go to westmilfordmuseum.org.
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