Batavia Park District wants to buy downtown building for Depot Museum expansion

  • The Batavia Park District is seeking to purchase this office building at 150 Houston St. The building is to be used for an expansion of the Depot Museum and for park district programs.

    The Batavia Park District is seeking to purchase this office building at 150 Houston St. The building is to be used for an expansion of the Depot Museum and for park district programs. Sandy Bressner/Shaw Media

 
 
Updated 8/25/2021 8:34 AM

The Batavia Park District is seeking to buy a downtown office building for an expansion of the Depot Museum and park district programs.

Members of the Batavia park board have authorized their attorney to negotiate a purchase contract for the professional building at 150 Houston St., located directly across the street from the museum.

 

When the office building was placed on the market, park district officials spotted an opportunity to provide more space for their popular activities and to realize the Batavia Historical Society's goal of museum expansion.

"This is a prime opportunity to expand the museum and to get added indoor space for our programs," park board member John Tilmon said.

"We are very excited by the synergy that this will create," park district Executive Director Allison Niemela said. "It will really expand the museum campus."

The listed purchase price for the building, which sits on a half-acre site, is $1 million.

Niemela said that once the sale is complete, park officials and historical society leaders will work together to decide how the 12,420-square-foot building space is to be allocated.

Also yet to be determined is how much money the park district and historical society each will contribute to the purchase price and renovations for the building.

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"We are encouraged by the potential of acquiring this building and look forward to working with our partners at the park district to investigate uses and ideas that will benefit our expansion program," historical society President Dan Hoefler said.

During the past five years, the historical society has raised $850,000 for expanding the museum, Hoefler said.

A concept plan for adding to the existing museum structure included offices, exhibition space, a visitor's center, restrooms and other amenities.

The Depot Museum, 155 Houston St., is housed in an 1854 Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad passenger station.

The building was moved from its original location at Van Buren and Webster streets to its current site overlooking Depot Pond and the Batavia Riverwalk and was opened as a museum in 1975.

Permanent exhibits feature artifacts from Mary Todd Lincoln's stay at Bellevue Place in 1875 and the history of Batavia's windmill manufacturers and railroads.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Outside, the 1907 CB&Q Railroad caboose is a popular attraction, along with the Coffin Bank, a one-room 1854 building that housed Batavia's first bank.

The museum building is owned by the park district. The collection of artifacts is owned by the historical society.

The park district employs museum Director Kate Garrett and curator Amber Foster.

Historical society volunteers staff the building during visiting hours and work in the Gustafson Research Center, an addition that houses books, photographs, documents and other archival material.

"We are very excited to move the museum into the next stage of its existence," Garrett said.

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