Seymour Museum Center to be open during Oktoberfest

The Seymour Museum Center board set a goal a year ago to be open during the 2021 Seymour Oktoberfest.

While that wasn’t met due to ongoing restoration of the large showroom, the goal will be achieved during this year’s festival.

The museum at 220 N. Chestnut St. will welcome visitors from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday as the city’s largest event attracts people from near and far.

Inside, people can check out the recently completed floor restoration in the showroom; partitions with photos of Seymour natives John Mellencamp, Edgar Whitcomb and Katie Stam; display cases with a variety of artifacts; a model train exhibit by the Southern Indiana Model Railroad Association; and a natural disasters, human error and unfortunate events exhibit from the Indiana Historical Society that also will include a local exhibit on the same topic.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve done so far,” said Len Hauersperger, president of the museum board. “The first phase has come along amazing. I hope everyone will come out. I think we’re going to expect a good crowd. We are a city-owned building. We do plan on bringing in a lot of people. I think it benefits the community historic-wise, education-wise in a lot of ways.”

The floor restoration was completed by Hiday Property Group. Carpet and tile were removed to reveal the wooden floor. On the back of the virgin growth maple, workers found it was manufactured in 1915 in Reed City, Michigan.

“Anything put in before the ’70s and ’80s was usually about 90% of the time virgin growth timber,” Hiday said. “A lot of times, on the back of the hardwood floor, you’ll find a lumber stamp.”

Funding for the flooring and a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, which was installed in March, came from a $20,000 grant from the Jackson County Visitor Center, Hauersperger said.

The wooden partitions were built by a Boy Scout for his Eagle Scout project.

“We have used those a lot,” Hauersperger said. “They actually can slide under that door (in the back of the showroom) — I had to cut a little bit off the top — and we can store them back here (in the back of the building).”

Display cases will be set up in the showroom as well as in the front right old postmaster’s office. The latter will feature old telephones from the E.S. Welch collection from Indiana Telephone and Telegraph Co., which was housed in the building across the street that now is home to Seymour City Hall.

“That has been a longtime goal is to get that collection over here,” Hauersperger said. “That has been a big thing.”

The local model railroad group had a Christmas show at the museum this past winter and has kept some of its displays inside the building since then. Members will have some trains going Friday and Saturday.

“The plan is eventually to have them upstairs, so we’re excited about that,” Hauersperger said.

In the future, the board would like to have the museum’s showroom available to rent. Members also are looking at hosting a Christmas event for families.

“This is going to take a lot of planning, but we really want to do that,” Hauersperger said. “The train club could have a Santa train, so it could get young people, families in, and Santa Claus would be here.”

On Monday night, his application for $230,000 of the city’s American Rescue Plan funding was approved by the Seymour City Council, so that will go toward finishing Phase 1. That includes electrical work upstairs and downstairs and redoing the foyer.

“We’re going to go back with original marble (on three walls) … and the ceiling will be redone, too,” Hauersperger said of the foyer. “We try to make it as original as we can.”

He recently had a group from his church pull up carpet on the second floor, and the model train club has been working up there, too.

Restoring that floor and putting in an elevator are part of the next phase of the museum’s restoration project.

Old heaters have been hauled off, and heating and cooling have been run up to the second floor, but electrical work needs to be done. Also, a tile floor will need to be installed, the ductwork, lights and vents need to be covered up with a drop ceiling and the windows and walls need restored.

All of the windows in the building except for two upstairs have been sponsored. The cost is $1,800 and includes a plaque recognizing the donor.

“This has been a lot of work,” Hauersperger said. “As we don’t have anything to do on the first phase downstairs, we’ll come up here or we’ll go in the back area. This is going to be a nice area. I can’t wait.”

At this point, he said the best spot for the elevator is in the northwest corner of the building. That’s currently where the model train club’s room is, and when that moves upstairs, a wall will be removed and the area will be turned into a greeting room with a desk and a gift shop.

Organizing the back area of the building also is part of the next phase. That’s where artifacts will be stored to rotate for displays and an office can be set up.

The long-term vision is to create displays of industrial and business history, family histories, personal collectibles of significance to the area, pictures, sports hall of fame recognition and other artifacts of historic importance to Seymour.

“We want to rotate exhibits, so if somebody had a lot of stuff donated, we could store it in here, and once we want to display it, we could bring it out,” Hauersperger said. “I’ve got people calling me all the time wanting to donate artifacts. We don’t want to just be an artifacts-only museum.”

One large item that recently arrived at the museum is a Union soldier statue that was put up at Shields Park in 1890 and had most recently been in storage for a long time. A crane placed that outside the museum’s front entrance.

“We have been in discussion with the city for a few years,” Hauersperger said. “The timing just finally worked out, and their parks and rec board approved for us to get it. It had 50 years of dust on it.”

The statue is missing the head and left hand.

“We’ve talked to a restoration company. There’s one in Ohio that just did a statue just like that. It was in worse shape. It was in more pieces,” Hauersperger said. “It’s probably going to be around $60,000 to really make it original like it was. We’re going to get it restored as soon as possible, but that’s another thing that we’re going to need some grant money to do. We apply for every grant that we know of.”

The museum recently had a desk and a printer donated for the office, and Hauersperger said he’s getting ready to apply for a grant to run heating and air conditioning to that area.

“It’s going to be nice to have an office here and have maybe some set hours,” he said. “Eventually, we want to be open Saturdays, but we’re not quite there.”

The basement of the museum would be the final phase. Hauersperger said that needs a lot of work.

“I haven’t even had groups really down there yet because it depends on the skill set of the people you get,” he said. “If they are contractors, you want them working on the big projects. If they are not contractors, there are still things they could do. We take advantage of anybody that’s willing to help. We have things they can do.”

At a glance 

The Seymour Museum Center will be open from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday during the Seymour Oktoberfest.

The museum is at 220 N. Chestnut St.

Donations may be made payable to Seymour Museum and mailed to P.O. Box 1138, Seymour, IN 47274. Contributions to the museum, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, also may be made at JCBank.

To donate artifacts, call Rodney Farrow at 812-525-1209.

Anyone with questions or interested in scheduling a tour can contact Len Hauersperger at 812-530-9272.