Shirley museum to reopen annex

SHIRLEY — With a little heavy lifting and a few final brushstrokes, renovations at the Shirley Depot Museum will be complete.

Ahead of the museum’s annual summer opening in May, members of the Shirley Historical Society are wrapping up a series of renovations to the organization’s property.

An old doctor’s office, which serves as an annex to the museum and lies less than 100 yards east of the structure, will reopen this year after sitting vacant since 2011, said Jerry Duke, president of the Shirley Historical Society.

The museum was closed in 2011 and remained unoccupied for four years as improvements were made to the building’s foundation. Though the museum reopened last summer, the doctor’s office needed new drywall and a layer of fresh paint, both of which are being completed by volunteers from the historical society, Duke said.

The space, which will display old lanterns, medicines and microscope slides, along with the office’s original furniture, represents a vital part of the town’s history, Duke said.

In the approximately six decades the office operated, local physicians delivered more than 3,800 babies. The original birthing chair, which was used for the majority of deliveries, also will be on display inside the office.

The organization is building an approximately 800-square-foot shelter outside the museum that will be used for town events, including the upcoming Strawberry Festival and Founder’s Day celebrations, both scheduled for this summer. The structure, which is estimated to cost about $14,000, was paid for through grants from several local foundations, Duke said. Construction is expected to wrap up in April.

Members are also in the process of raising money to restore the 1920s-era train caboose purchased by the organization in 2015, Duke said. Though the caboose cost roughly $13,000, including delivery, it will cost several thousands of dollars more to restore, he said.

Duke said the organization is actively seeking grants from state and community organizations to fund the project. Proceeds from the towns’ summer festivals will also be put toward the restoration, Duke said.

Eventually, Duke said he’d also like to build a shelter around the caboose, which currently sits behind the depot.

The depot was once the lifeline of the town, supplying the town’s natural gas industry, Duke said.

Members of the Shirley Historical Society say they hope the repairs and additions will help revitalize the town, the population of which has dwindled in recent years.

“It’s just good for people in the area to know where we came from,” said Linda Westrich, a longtime member of the historical society.

Built in 1893 just off Main Street, the depot was once the center of the small town. It served as a train station and a telegraph office for decades, connecting Shirley and its once-thriving industries to cities across the Midwest, including St. Louis, Cincinnati and Louisville.

Pat Reason, a member of the historical society since the 1990s, said although much has come and gone from Shirley, the museum preserves those memories.

“We need to hold on to our history, and the museum is where we keep all those things,” Reason said.

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.