Work to resume on museum’s new home

COEUR d’ALENE — On Thursday afternoon, Britt Thurman was standing on the partially built porch of the Museum of North Idaho’s future home.

“One of the first things that we’re about to get started on is building out the porch, and then doing all kinds of exterior improvements to the White House,” said Thurman, the museum’s executive director.

Following a long pause in construction, work on what will be an 11,500-square-foot facility to house exhibits, art and educational resources is set to resume soon.

The museum has about $1.2 million to get things rolling again, and “bring this house back to life bit by bit.”

New windows, siding and doors will be installed and the roofline extended. Eventually, an elevator will connect all four floors.

Some landscaping work must be done first, including removal of some maple trees.

Ignite cda, Coeur d’Alene’s urban renewal agency, pledged $700,000 to site development work.

Currently, the museum occupies a 4,370-square-foot, city-owned building by City Park. After four decades there, it has outgrown the space.

In 2019, the historic J.C. White House was moved from Eighth and Sherman to the base of Tubbs Hill at McEuen Park for the museum’s new home.

The project includes renovations to the J.C. White House, site design and development, an expanded lower level wing, climate-controlled spaces and a rooftop terrace for what Thurman said will be a premier regional museum.

Costs were initially pegged at $5.5 million. But due to construction delays caused by COVID-19 and supply chain issues, expenses have jumped. Thurman said the price tag rose earlier this year another $3.5 million.

She remains confident in their fundraising plans, with a number of large grant possibilities on the horizon.

“We’re also hoping that getting started on this project and seeing the work getting done is going to kind of reintroduce that capital campaign to the community,” she said.

Johnson Construction of Coeur d’Alene is the project’s general contractor.

If plans hold their course, the museum could get a temporary certificate of occupancy for a partial opening next year, continue with the underground expansion, and be fully open by 2024.

Stephen Towles is doing his part as both museum board president and by walking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago in Europe to raise funds for the museum.

He walked part of it in 2019 and had to come home because of infected blisters on his feet. He finished the last 500 kilometers of the Camino last September.

The retired minister decided to return this September to complete the journey in one trip.

“The walk is an experience of connection, personal growth, physical, emotional and spiritual challenge, and is one of the great opportunities for anyone to push their boundaries and expand their consciousness,” he wrote.

Towles is including a fundraising component where people can pledge for each kilometer he covers. To donate:

He expects the journey to take 34 days.

“It is one of the ways I can support our capital campaign and the growth of the museum,” he said.

Thurman appreciates his efforts. She said it gives people an opportunity to contribute whatever they can afford, “and know that you’re contributing toward this free community asset.”

When she arrived here as museum director nearly two years ago, Thurman was aware of the capital campaign and knew it would be a challenge.

She happily accepted.

“I knew what I was getting myself into,” Thurman said. “Why I wanted to take the job is because this project was so amazing. I wanted to be part of it.”