News Column

Mining museum celebrates anniversary with plans to expand

July 12, 2014

By Wayne Heilman, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

July 12--The Western Museum of Mining & Industry plans an extensive renovation and expansion as it celebrates the 32nd anniversary at its location on the northern edge of Colorado Springs.

Rick Sauers, executive director of the nonprofit, said the museum's board will soon launch a feasibility study for the renovation and expansion project that will include community surveys and a fundraising campaign with a $4 million goal. He said the museum expects to generate about $1 million by selling its former site. The project is expected to be completed by 2020.

The anniversary celebration Saturday was designed to build awareness about the museum, its exhibits and expansion plans, including the first look at an on-site blacksmith shop that has been closed for about a decade and is scheduled to reopen this fall. The event also featured demonstrations and displays of vintage steam engines, a steam shovel and other mining equipment as well as one of only a handful of still-functioning historic "Yellow Jacket" stamping mills that crush gold ore.

Bill Bruhn, of Colorado Springs, said the stamping mill demonstration brought back nostalgic feelings from when he worked in the Henderson Mine near Berthoud Pass in the mid-1970s. Some of the equipment on display at the museum was used at the molybdenum mine when he worked there.

Richard Bugyi-Sutter, of Colorado Springs, said he and his wife, Kathleen, found the demonstrations "fascinating," including detailed descriptions of mining processes.

The museum also plans a series of special and annual events in September and October, including a lecture to kick off a four-month special exhibit on "Artistic Reflections of Mining Structures," which will include more than two dozen paintings and sketches of historic mine headframes. The exhibit will open with a lecture at 7 p.m.Sept. 11 by metallurgical expert Robert Phillips.

The museum also will hold its third annual Harvest Festival, featuring hayrides, a pumpkin patch, gunfights and gold panning, on Oct. 10-11 and operate its popular Haunted Mines Tour from Sept. 19 to Nov. 1.

The Western Museum of Mining & Industry opened as the Museum of the West in 1970 on a 20-acre site on Copper Center Parkway with much of its collection coming from mining artifacts contributed by Frederick McMenemy Farrar, a former Colorado attorney general and longtime general counsel for Colorado Fuel & Iron Co., and his wife, Katherine Thatcher Farrar. The museum moved to its current site at 225 North Gate Blvd. in 1982 and now uses the former site to store items from its collection it has no room to display.

Sauers envisions adding a wing for the museum's 5,000-volume research library and archives, which include the ledgers and correspondence of Winfield Scott Stratton from when he owned the Independence Mine, and doubling the size of its theater to seat 80 people. The project would also include more exhibit space, ore specimens, a new building for the rest of its collection and a complete restoration of its 1894 Reynolds Ranch House, the last building left from the town of Husted.

The museum board eventually may reopen a historic machine shop and a vintage sawmill to visitors, and plans to offer about half of its collection to other mining museums that have more room to exhibit items the local museum lacks the space to display, Sauers said.


Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

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Source: Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)

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