History in the making for Lee’s Summit

rpulley@lsjournal.comNovember 13, 2013 

The Lee’s Summit Historical Society is gaining momentum in preparing to move its museum in the 1939 WPA Post Office now being renovated by the city.

The society is picking up sponsors and partners for finances and running the facility, said LSHS President Kathy Smith, giving an update to the Lee’ Summit City Council Nov. 7.

To develop exhibits it is planning to work with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s History Department, and Summit Technology Academy.

Lee’s Summit Medical Center and Bank of Lee’s Summit have committed to being museum patrons, each contributing $1,000 a year for five years, Smith said. That’s part of the society’s restructuring dues and fund raising to support the museum operations. It estimates an annual budget of about $37,500.

“It’s just the beginning, people are very excited about it, as we are too,” Smith said.

The UMKC department is rolling out a new Public History Master’s degree which will include requiring students to complete internships and practicums for historical exhibits.

The department plans to have those students work with LSHS to install exhibits, draw up interpretive plans or build a digital history project.

The plan is for the society to move its collection to the downtown WPA building and be responsible for museum’s day-to-day operations and costs.

The council is to vote on construction bids and a lease ($1 a year) for the LSHS later.

Architect John Wisniewski presented a conceptual design from Hollis+Miller architects and Art Davis, a volunteer with the society, outlined the historical society’s developing plan for operating the facility and enlarging endowments.

Wisniewski said that preliminary work showed there was no asbestos or lead paint – good news for the construction budget because removal of those hazards would be expensive.

The post office lobby would be return to its original appearance. The historical society has the original construction drawings.

Inside the former mail room, reopened to the former 13-foot high ceiling, would have a suspended system for moveable panels to be arranged for different exhibits.

Wisniewski said there seems to be wooden floors underneath current flooring, which architects hope can be refinished. There are some unknowns because ReDiscover, which had leased the building, hasn’t relocated.

One wall will serve as projection screen for videos, and one corner a representation of the former Vogue theater downtown.

Other exhibit themes include local history as influenced by railroads, World War II, Longview Farms and Loula Long-Combs and the Civil War, along with displays about community leaders.

“There’s something here for everybody, I really like that,” said Councilman Brian Whitley.

The council, by consensus, had architects Hollis+Miller and the LSHS to continue their work. Council member Rob Binney and others only cautioned that the proposed budget might have underestimated some costs, such as utilities or for hiring a director/grant writer.

“This is awesome, you’ve done some tremendous work,” Binney said.

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