PILOT POINT — The old 201 S. Jefferson St. building in Pilot Point has served many purposes over the years. The building has been around since the late 1800s, officials say, and it has served as a two-story hotel and most recently a washateria. Even the word grocery is faded on one of the building’s exterior pillars, which leads some officials to believe that it also served as a local market.
The building, which was beginning to crumble from the inside out, was donated to the city by local historian and resident Clifton Irick a couple of years ago.
In an attempt to save the building, city officials agreed to repurpose the building once more and give it a much needed makeover.
“We asked ourselves, ‘now we have it, so what should we do with it,” City Manager Tom Adams said.
The Pilot Point City Council agreed to turn the building into a city museum, and renovations have already begun. Officials hope to use the building as a place to put historic city artifacts, memorabilia and documents on display.
“This is an old town, with a lot of history scattered throughout the city,” Adams said. “A few people expressed that they would like it if we had one place to keep everything.”
The city has never had an official museum, but a few locals took on the task to collect city artifacts.
Resident Jay Melugin owned and operated Jay’s Café and Museum, which was home to more than 1,000 pieces of artifacts, newspapers and photographs collected for more than 15 years.
For years, Melugin served as the city’s historian along with a few other residents.
The items in his restaurant were donated to the city after his restaurant caught fire. Most of the items were saved and they will be displayed in the city museum once it’s finished.
Melugin said he would be happy once the items are out of storages and back on display.
Officials hope to complete the first phase of restoration by October. The work has included gutting the building because much of its interior walls, tiles and pipes were in decay, possibly because of moist air from the laundry mat operations, officials said.
The ceiling and second floor were removed, the exterior frame was torn down, including the doors and windows, and the building’s wiring was cut out.
Adams said the second phase will include focusing on rebuilding the interior.
City officials said they would like to get the building up and running as soon as possible, but a timeline has not been set.
“It will depend on the budget each year,” Adams said. “Right now, we’re keeping the project fluid.”
The scope of the next restoration phase will be determined as the city finishes its budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which starts this fall.
Main Street director Jeremy Sander said he would like to see the museum completed as soon as possible.
According to a 2012 staff report, it may take until 2016 before the building is finished. And an early estimate projected it may cost nearly $145,000 to complete, which includes about $40,000 to renovate the building’s facade.
Funding to finish the building is expected to come out of the city’s 2013 Capital Program.
Officials said they would like to preserve the building as much as they can, because the building is also a historic part of the city.
Sander said his job as director is to make sure the building remains historically accurate.
“We have a few options for how we want it to look,” he said. “But for the most part, I’m here to make sure the right materials are used and that it fits into the look of downtown.”
The city has been cited as being a city with a very rich history, said city planners from the American Institute of Architecture.
The team of planners spent about a week in Pilot Point earlier this year to help the city plan short-term and long-term goals.
One of the ideas the team suggested included preserving the character and history of Pilot Point.
The team praised the city for investing in the new museum, but said the city needs to spread historic preservation beyond the downtown square.
It is a critical first step in preserving the character of Pilot Point, they said.
But for now, the city is hoping that efforts to preserve the square will spur more historic preservation efforts around the city.
“[The museum] will be a good anchor to showcase the pride and history of Pilot Point,” Sander said. “The people here have deep roots and more than likely they will know the people in the photographs and articles. It will allow people to see where they come from.”
JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.