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‘It’s finally happening’

SPRING VALLEY — On May 12, 2010, a few dreamers got together in Spring Valley to share their hopes for the city’s past.

Now, just 14 months later, those dreams have become a reality.

Today, Saturday, the Spring Valley Historic Association’s Museum will open its doors at 201 W. St. Paul St. for the first time.

It’s been an eventful time since that May meeting. In August 2010, the SVHA purchased the former home of long-time resident Adelle Cavaletto, and the dreamers finally had a location. They also had a time line.

“What we actually planned originally was to remodel just the one small front room and have it open for the 125th anniversary,” said SVHA Director Kathy Cullinan. “Once we got into it, somebody would always say, ‘Well, let’s add the handicapped bathroom,’ ‘Let’s add the next thing,’ and they finally said, ‘Go to the back.’ So the whole first floor is basically renovated.”

It’s all been accomplished thanks to the thousands of hours and dollars provided by tireless volunteers and generous donors.

“The first time my son, Joseph, walked in, he looked around and said, ‘Are you guys nuts? This is impossible,’” said board member Debb Ladgenski with a laugh. “He has since seen the fruits of his labor.”

There have been challenges, including the 20 snakes who called the basement home, a crumbling foundation and some flooring that needed to be replaced rather than refinished.

“It was more work than we anticipated because the building was not in great shape,” said board member Tony Mautino. “I think it took a lot of great cooperation and people doing all of this stuff and lending a hand. I think it’s really good.”

Other challenges have been more personal. After the Spring Valley Mine and Historical Society failed in its attempts to create a museum, many people doubted whether the new organization would succeed.

“People were skeptical,” said board member Dan McFadden. “We knew that since the start.”

“‘Lost cause, lost cause,’ that’s all I kept getting,” said Cathy Baltikauski, a member of the previous board. “I was tired of hearing that.”

But now that the museum is a reality, the memorabilia has started flowing in.

There’s a wide variety of items people are either giving or donating to the museum. There’s a jacket that belonged to labor leader John Mitchell, a Spring Valley Merchants’ wool baseball jersey, two Hall sweaters from 1948, little baby shoes with buttons and a photograph album, just to name a few of the more recent items.

“This type of stuff is out there,” Cullinan said. “It’s in the attics, in the sheds and people are beginning to think about looking. Once they walk in off the street with one item, they tend to go home and look around and find some more things.”

“Now that they can walk in here and see some of this stuff, I think it’s going to make a big world of difference,” Mautino said. “There’s some great stuff in here, and I think the people will be impressed.”

Just because the doors have opened doesn’t mean the work is finished.

“We’re going to need ongoing volunteers,” Cullinan said. “We’re going to need maintenance people and cleaners. We’re going to have to organize and catalog. We’re going to need fundraisers, and hosts and hostesses when we’re open.”

Ladgenski said they want to begin recording oral histories, and then develop a schedule of rotating displays.

“We would like to rotate, so you don’t just come in and expect you don’t have to ever come back,” she said. “We’d like to change and evolve and do some programming, so it will be a living, viable museum.”

In addition, the old horse trough that once sat in the downtown, and then served as a fountain by the old city hall, is being refurbished and will be brought to the museum’s side yard.

Baltikauski said she is so pleased to see the museum finally open.

“That’s what we were looking for all this time, and it’s finally happening,” she said. “I’m just tickled to death.”

Check out Tuesday’s Bureau County Republican for continuing coverage of Spring Valley’s 125th anniversary.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

Editor’s note: The Bureau County Republican is proud to honor Spring Valley as an important member of the Bureau County family. This is the second in a five-part series of articles on Spring Valley’s 125th anniversary, which will be celebrated July 16-24.

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