Museum's Mimi Hardman Collections and Research Center Dedication Jan. 23
Last updated 1/21/2021 at 9:17am
The Lake Wales History Museum will dedicate the new Mimi Hardman Collections and Research Center at the restored 1916 Seaboard Airline Freight Station, one of its iconic buildings in the museum's historic corridor, at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 23.
After adjusting the fundraising goals due to COVID-19, and approval of matching funds from the City of Lake Wales Community Redevelopment Agency, the project began in July, and is now complete. This newly restored building will now house the museum's collection permanently, and be open for public research.
Dedicated to the museum's late founder, Mimi Hardman, this new center will allow for the growth and proper care of the museum's 44-year-old collection, future research and public access to the more than 25,000 items of Lake Wales' historical items dating back to the 1850s.
"This project is a turnkey project as it marks the first building restoration in the museum's historic corridor in more than 20 years. With over seventy donors coming forward to contribute to this project, it shows how much people care about the heritage of the Lake Wales community," states Jennifer D'hollander, director of the museum. "We have saved Lake Wales history, and honored Mimi. She is the reason we have the building and collections today, and this is the best way we can honor her legacy."
The dedication ceremony will feature guest speakers: The Honorable J.D. Alexander, City of Lake Wales Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson, and Friends of the Museum President Travis Chapin, followed by tours of the new facility, and viewing of the current new exhibit in the main museum building. The ceremony will take place outside, social distancing measures will be in place, and face coverings are required indoors. The museum is located at 325 S. Scenic Hwy.
The Friends of the Lake Wales History Museum raised a total of $33,000 towards the restoration. A match in the amount of $29,705 was granted by the City of Lake Wales Community Redevelopment Agency, for a project total budget of $62,705. Just before COVID-19 hit, the museum made major adjustments to the scope and project budget, but were still able to complete the project.
The project included a complete exterior restoration of the 1916 Seaboard Airline Freight Station, located at Johnson Avenue and Scenic Highway in Lake Wales' historic museum corridor. New siding, decking to ADA standards, new HVAC system, landscaping, painting, and lighting completed the exterior restoration. Inside, the museum staff and volunteers cleaned, painted, and updated the bathroom to accommodate a new space for the museum's collections.
"I love the idea of being able to save a historic building and giving it a new life," states Bartholomew Delcamp, the museum's curator. "I went to school to learn about how museums can repurpose old buildings, and save history, and now I'm part of that in Lake Wales."
The historic building was constructed by the Seaboard Air Line Railroad in 1916, and is the oldest original train station in Lake Wales. It was originally located at the corner of Kissimmee Avenue and Scenic Highway, and greatly contributed to the economic development of the Lake Wales area, bringing goods and supplies, and carrying outbound citrus and turpentine to northern markets.
The building was donated to the City of Lake Wales in 1975, and moved to its current location in the museum's historic corridor in 1993. Working together, the former Historic Lake Wales Society and the former Lake Wales Model Railroad Club restored the old depot. An existing model railroad diorama was purchased and installed. The Lake Wales Model Railroad Club held educational programs and events in the old depot to share with the community for many years.
Today, the building is fully restored, has a new purpose, a new name, and will be part of the museum's historic corridor and activities for years to come. A future exterior interpretive display will also tell the story of the building and its importance to commerce and industry to Lake Wales.