GUTHRIE — With winter approaching and a lack of funding to replace a broken boiler, the historic State Capital Publishing Museum building in Guthrie has closed indefinitely.
The building at 301 W Harrison is owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society and operated by the Logan County Historical Society in an affiliate program. Neither had $150,000 in their budgets for a new boiler, said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
The decision to close was made in late October, said Melissa Fesler, director of First Capital Trolley, which is also operated by the Logan County Historical Society.
“I know we still worked on alternative heat options, but because of the age of the building and its historical value, we really couldn't come up with a way to heat the building's 50,000 square feet,” Fesler said.
Blackburn said at first it was thought the boiler could be repaired for about $60,000.
“Since our initial estimate on repairing the boiler we found out it cannot be repaired, it has to be replaced and the approximate cost of replacing the boiler is $150,000,” Blackburn said.
The State Capital Publishing Co. building was constructed in 1902, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. It was the fourth home of the State Capital Co., which was organized in 1889 just before the first land run. Located in downtown Guthrie, the structure was one of the first in Oklahoma to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Inside the museum is a collection of original furnishings and printing equipment. Museum exhibits include the history of the State Capital Co., printing technology and other aspects of life from the territorial and early statehood era.
Mary Coffin, president and CEO of the Guthrie Chamber of Commerce, hopes someone will step forward with funding.
“There's so much potential in that building for so many things to happen there for our community,” Coffin said. “I just don't want to give up on it and I think everybody else is the same way. We've got a little snag, let's see what we can do to get past this and get it back open again.”
Coffin said it has been a popular stop during Christmas celebrations throughout December and is a starting point for the trolley tours.
In the affiliate program, the Oklahoma Historical Society provided the insurance and gave the county historical society a stipend for utilities and some administrative costs, said Chris Hirzel, president of the Logan County Historical Society.
The museum has faced tough times in the past and a few years ago, the Logan County Historical Society became involved under the affiliate program so the museum could be reopened. Hirzel said that in addition to being a stop for visitors to Guthrie, the museum has provided activities for schools and other groups.
Hirzel said tourism is important to the state and to Guthrie, and the State Capital Publishing Museum is “one of the jewels.”
“Tourism in Guthrie is everything,” he said. “First and foremost we would love for it to be a publishing museum like it is.”
Blackburn said he too would like that. He thinks for it to be really effective, it would need to be to run as a living history museum, where people are printing, binding and so on as visitors come through. However, he said “the equipment is extremely expensive to rehabilitate.” The cost would be more than $3 million in development and a staff of eight to 10 people would be needed, he said.
Blackburn said the largest staff right now at one of their biggest historical sites is four people at the Pawnee Bill Ranch. He said the Oklahoma Historical Society budget has been cut 28 percent over the last four years and “we cut everything proportionately” — the museum sites, the Oklahoma History Center and others.
“And that's when we got more aggressive with generating our own stream of revenue,” he said. “And we haven't been able to do that with the State Capital Publishing Museum, whereas at probably 15 of our other museum sites we've been generating well over 20 percent of their budgets with either fundraising or by generating revenue.”
The State Capital Publishing Museum had been open on Wednesdays through Saturdays, Fesler said. However, in the summer, the museum closed any time the temperature in the building reached 90 degrees, Fesler said.
“We would like to open it back if we could get those issues fixed,” she said.
Blackburn said during the winter they will look at all options, such as cutting back to seasonal hours in the spring and fall when the heat and air would not likely be needed or finding a partner to do the living history aspect. He said a decision would need to be made by July 1, the start of the next fiscal year.