Work Begins on Stuhr's "Gem of the Prairie"


Work begins on a $7 million construction project that should improve a local landmark and keep it among the nation's top museums.

More than cosmetic changes are needed at the Stuhr Building. The museum wants to preserve its artifacts, and its standing as one of the nation's most prestigious museums.

"To me, it feels like we're at the end," Museum Director Joe Black said.

The start of construction marks the end of the planning phase at Stuhr Museum, years after they decided to restore a building they call the "gem of the prairie."

Black said, "It may feel like we're just embarking on this grand adventure of redoing the building, when in reality, our boards and staff have been doing this for six years, the planning, and fundraising.

Already, they've dealt with asbestos. Now they're getting into what Back calls "the meat and potatoes."

"The building will be amazing," he said. "The roof will be in better shape, we'll have an HVAC system that will not only make it more comfortable for you as a visitor, but more importantly be better for the artifacts. The humidity and temperature will be better controlled so they last as long as they possibly can."

Stuhr Museum is accredited, just like the Smithsonian. They set high standards to care for the exhibits and the building that was designed by a famed architect.

At the campaign goal announcement, Foundation Director Pam Price said, "We're so lucky to have a building of this stature designed by Edward Durrell Stone, one of our nation's leading architects in the '50s and '60s."

It'll be off limits for more than a year, so they're hosting events elsewhere on the grounds and even across town. After 45 special events last year, they're still putting on 43 this year.

Black said, "We're still doing lots of work, things are still going on."

Sampson Construction leads the $7 million project. Work began last week, and they've made progress already. But it'll take time to do justice to this well known building.

Black said, "This is the most visible building we have at the museum, you see it from the major highways, it's a symbol of the museum and what we do out here, so people are excited about being a part of it and seeing the building once it's all finished up."

They've had to shuffle some things around. Some art shows are taking place in downtown Grand Island at the Bartenbach Building.

Railroad Town and other exhibits will be open for the summer season.