The Hillsboro City Council voted 3-0 at its March 20 meeting to allow the Hillsboro Museums Board to use city-managed trust funds to be have an architectural plan developed that could lead to the reconstruction of a pioneer stone house on the museum complex in town.
The 1879 Heinrich Bartel House, currently in a state or disrepair on a farm north of Hillsboro, is the only stone Polish/Eastern European-style house still in existence “that we know of,” according to Stan Harder, museums director.
Harder said the house would structurally complete the story of Mennonite settlers in this area. The Peter Paul Loewen House represents the Mennonite Russian-style House, while the Bartel House represents the Mennonite immigrants who came from Poland.
The project, which has been of interest to the museum board for many years, would require that each stone—most of which are lying at the ground at present—be numbered and mapped according to its position in the structure, then be stored on pallets in a designated place until the stones can be built upon a foundation on the museum grounds.
Evan Yoder, board chairman, said the house is “a 130-year-old pile of stones right now,” and action is needed because the stones are deteriorating with time.
Yoder suggested the total cost of restoring the house would be “under $100,000.”
Harder said restricted donations made by family and friends of the Bartel House over the years stand at $40,531. William Morris, the board’s consultant on the project, estimated the cost of the architectural work to be $4,154, which would come from those restricted funds.
Mayor Delores Dalke expressed several reservations about the project. She said she did not want the stones stored indefinitely on the museum grounds for aesthetic reasons; Harder said an alternate location could be found.
Dalke said she’d also like to see a timeline and plan for fundraising; Harder agreed that “we can’t go anywhere without a plan.”
Dalke also questioned whether the project could be completed for $100,000; she had heard some “wild numbers” when the project had been estimated several years earlier.
Morris said he believed $100,000 to $120,000 was possible, but developing the architectural plan would give everyone a better idea what the actual cost would be.
In the end, councilors Byron McCarty, Bob Watson and Shelby Dirks voted to authorize the use of the designated funds for the plan. After the vote, Dalke stated her opposition to the project.
Councilor Kevin Suderman was not present at the meeting.
Schaeffler House roof
On a related matter, the council approved an uncontested base bid of $9,000 from Frederick Waterproofing-Roofing, Wichita, to replace the slate shingles, fix the chimney and do some interior wall repair at the city-owned William F. Schaeffler House.
A 80/20 Historic Preservation grant the city has received would pay $74,713 toward the project. The city’s share would be $18,679, leaving $9,548 remaining from the $84,261 grant fund.
Dalke expressed concern about only one bid being received on the project when bids from five companies had been solicited.
Morris said the job was not big enough to draw sufficient interest from the other companies. Also, he had worked with Frederick Waterproofing-Repair on previous projects and had found them to do good work at a fair price.