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Local historian approves of museum’s relocation - Feb. 04, 2014


Kathy Bockus/Courier
St. Stephen historian Doug Dougherty, left, and BIA president Kevin Stuart, look at the rear of the old town hall building where a BIA plan proposes retail or office addition be built. The plan also calls for the Charlotte County Museum to relocate in the historic structure.

Kathy Bockus
St. Stephen
A plan to relocate the Charlotte County Museum to the old town hall on Milltown Boulevard has received an enthusiastic personal nod of approval from Doug Dougherty.
The local historian and long-time chair of the museum’s board said he supports the urban redesign plan for downtown St. Stephen proposed by the local Business Improvement Area (BIA).
The relocation of the museum “just makes sense” according to the plan’s developers, making the resource more central. The museum is currently located near the Milltown border crossing, far away from the downtown core. Dougherty said he has yet to discuss the proposal with his board.
Dougherty said when BIA president Kevin Stuart first mentioned the proposal to move the museum, “I had reservations.”
“Then the more I thought about it, I thought ‘that’s not a bad idea’.”
Dougherty said his reservations centred around losing the historic building that currently houses the museum.
“But the more I thought about it, it’s one way of preserving the town hall which I am very much in favour of.”
However, Dougherty said he told Stuart if the move did take place, there must be a commitment made that the current museum building be retained as an historic building and as an offsite storage site for the items that wouldn’t be able to be displayed at the old town hall.
The $28,000 redesign plan – one quarter of which was paid for by the BIA, the rest through a federal, provincial initiative negotiated by BIA New Brunswick – was unveiled in January.
It calls for the creation of a serious St. Stephen tourism initiative and striking changes in the landscape in the downtown core including the development of shops and retail experiences, restaurants, an upgraded walking trail, more focus on the St. Croix River and the development of an artificial turf field on the decommissioned sewage lagoon.
The plan calls for the town to feature and take advantage of its location on the banks of the St. Croix River and the redesign for the old town hall proposes a contemporary addition be built on the rear of the historic brick structure to house office or retail space. That would provide a source of funds to support the museum’s new location.
Dougherty said some of the museum’s important exhibits “could work well” in the old town hall, citing its large, naturally lit rooms on the second floor.
“If we do move, I’d like to see the stairway stay because there’s very few buildings that have that curve,” he added, referring to the elegant, curved stairway leading to the second floor rooms.
Moving the Charlotte County Museum to the old town hall, left vacant since a move in 2009 prompted by health concerns and a crumbling façade, coupled with moving forward on the creation of a basketball museum in the old YMCA building nearby on King Street, would be good for the town said Dougherty.
Those museums would join The Chocolate Museum which makes its home in the downtown core, cementing a strong cultural and heritage presence, said Dougherty.
“I would like to see the basketball museum happen. I’d like to see the building restored and there’s no reason why it can’t.
“It would develop the cultural and heritage side of St. Stephen to have the three museums close together.”
Dougherty said he’d also like to see St. Stephen’s Garcelon Civic Center dedicate an area to display the museum’s pictures of old sports teams and trophies. “I know our board would be in favour of that because people don’t see them now.”
Dougherty, 87, said he’s currently seeking a director for the museum as well as new members for its board. The current board membership has slipped to five members from 12 -14 from several years ago.
“I’m looking for some new help. I’ve got to give it up. It’s too much worry and I’m not getting any younger.
“My greatest wish is to see some of these historic places preserved. I hope it happens in my time. I’d like to see it happen.”

kathy@stcroixcourier.ca