The oldest building in downtown Waxahachie is prepped to undergo a $2.5 million restoration.

The Ellis County Museum board established a capital campaign to restore and renovate the entire structure to add an elevator, more exhibit space and a public venue. The museum's curator, Shannon Simpson, said once the money is raised, the construction is estimated to take approximately nine months to a year to complete.

The development started out as an elevator project that morphed into a rehabilitation endeavor to finish out the second and third floor of the museum. The second floor would house more exhibit space, as well as include a reference library and work area.

The third floor that consists of approximately 4,500 square feet would serve as a multipurpose area that could be leased out for meetings, weddings and various events. The top story will include an assembly room of 2,726 square feet with an occupancy of 182 people. A serving kitchen will be assessable to facilitate catering and food preparation. There will also be two additional rooms that overlook the Ellis County Courthouse.

“It’s got the best view in town, and it’s a great space,” expressed Beth Young, the chair for the Ellis County Museum restoration committee.

An ADA elevator will be located at the rear of the building, and restrooms will be located on all three floors. A small staircase on the first floor will allow access to a mezzanine that will house the office of the curator and additional storage.

Architexas, a historic preservation company based in Austin, developed a master plan for the three-story renovation. Simpson mentioned the lead architect for the project, Larry Irsik, was also involved with the restoration of the Ellis County Courthouse and created the first master plan for the museum in 2001. Another senior partner with Architexas, Stanley Graves, worked on a master plan back in 1980 and also helped Irsik create the most recent conceptual floor plan toward the end of 2018, which was the third one to be issued.

“We started working on this building about 10 years ago actually,” noted Glinda Felty, the Ellis County Museum board president. “We have gotten it into a shape where we can now we feel good about doing new things to it.”

Young, Felty and Simpson then detailed a decade worth of restoration that took place. The back wall had a significant repair to keep it from collapsing, mortar on the brick was tuck pointed, bricks on the third floor south wall were restored and painted, all 49 windows were restored, and a new roof was added. Air conditioning was installed in two rooms on the second floor as well as limited electricity. Also, routine maintenance regularly took place.

A generous donation made by Mr. and Mrs. S.C. Middleton, a longtime Waxahachie family, was gifted to several Waxahachie entities, which included the museum. Felty said these funds helped kickstart the capital campaign. Mr. Middleton is featured in the museum as a ship captain on D-Day with a "top secret" map. He also served as a board member and dedicated volunteer for the museum before he passed away.

“It’s the oldest building on the square,” Shannon said before he detailed how it erected. Masons with the Masonic Lodge were responsible for the construction the building in 1889. The third floor was utilized for meetings, while the second floor was leased out for offices and the bottom floor served as a business to create revenue to fund the mission.

A finance committee has been comprised and includes mayor Kevin Strength, State Rep. John Wray, former State Rep. Jim Pitts, Charlotte McKibbin, Chris Acker, Beth Terminella, Harold Barnard, Sam Meade, Steve Chapman, Glinda Felty, Shannon Simpson, John Hamilton, David Hudgins and Beth Young.

“We think it will be a great benefit to the community, so we hope that everybody jumps in and makes it a reality,” Young said. “If we think there is ever a time to get this project done, it’s now.”

The goal is to gather all the necessary funds over the next two years.

For more information or to make a donation, call Simpson at 972-937-0681 or email ecmuseum@sbcglobal.net.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450