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Old maritime museum to be razed

  • Museum-WEB-jpg

    The former Inland Seas Maritime Museum in Vermilion will be demolished. The city's parks and recreation board voted unanimously to raze the structure earlier this month.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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VERMILION — The former Inland Seas Maritime Museum and Wakefield House will soon be demolished to make the lake more accessible to residents and visitors.

The Vermilion Parks and Recreation Board unanimously voted in favor of demolition of the buildings on the property at a meeting earlier this month.

The city of Vermilion acquired the property for $1.65 million in 2014 when the Great Lakes Historical Society decided to move to Toledo. The funds for the purchase were raised through the city along with private donations; state and federal funds were also used, according to the minutes from the Dec. 19 meeting.

In 2015 and 2016, the museum continued to lease the property from the city, but did not renew the lease after 2016, at which time the city took over.

When the city was originally thinking of purchasing the property in 2013, a public survey was done that identified public restrooms, additional parking, potential event space that may generate revenue and the idea of maintaining sightlines as needs for the property.

In January, the Parks and Recreation Board asked member Jon Logue to head a committee to decide what to do with the property. The committee reported its findings to the board at the Dec. 19 meeting.

The committee had an architect do a full assessment of the Wakefield House, which was built in 1909, and the museum addition, which dates back to the 1960s. The study showed that while the house itself was not in “the best shape,” the “museum addition was really in horrific shape,” according to the minutes.

The idea of fully restoring the 16,000 square feet worth of structures was considered, but the committee felt the $5 million of cost estimated for the restoration was too steep. The $5 million didn’t include the removal of asbestos, which is estimated to cost $150,000.

Logue said the committee looked at how the city would raise the $5 million, but also how much money it would take to maintain the buildings, saying “the ongoing maintenance and burden to the city were big considerations of the committee.”

The committee also explored demolishing the museum addition and restoring the Wakefield House itself. The committee concluded the home offers limited accessibility and is not the “kind of house for a huge gathering or rentable space.”

In the end, the committee recommended tearing both the home and the museum addition down to make room for something new, which will be more energy efficient and for which the annual costs will be much less than doing a restoration.

Another committee is expected to be formed next year to explore options for new buildings. Since the property belongs to the city, the demolition of the current buildings will have to go to bid, as will the new construction, according to the meeting minutes.

Contact Scott Mahoney at 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.



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