Victor Museum Gets a Face Lift (and a Tummy Tuck)

By Beth Dodd:

The Victor Lowell Thomas Museum has been a landmark in Victor since it opened in 1960 in the Reynolds Block at the corner of 3rd Street and Victor Ave. Built back in 1899, the north wall of the century old building was beginning to buckle and the second story was starting to sag by 1990s. The problem was being caused by damage from a fire inside the building back in the 1950s.

The north wall along Victor Ave was leaning the point that it was becoming a safety concern. Something had to be done or the building would eventually collapse into the street. The Victor Improvement Association, the owners and operators of the museum, started a Save the Museum Campaign. $20,000 was raised by the local community. Donations or grants also came from the City of Victor, the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine, the Boettcher Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, the Quick Foundation, and the State Historical Fund. From 2008 to 2011, roughly $750,000 was invested in restoring the museum. The Reynolds Block originally held Tomkins Hardware, a sweet shop that sold candy and pastries, and a tin smith in the basement.

The building later served as the Hackley Hotel, and then as a series of grocery stores. Back in the 1950s, there was a fire in the back half of the building that damaged the floor of the first story and the framing timbers in the basement below. The Victor Improvement Association acquired the property soon after, and opened the Victor Museum there. They did not realize that the missing section of the floor and its supporting beams would one day jeopardize the overall integrity of the building. The restoration of the old building has happened in phases. The first step was the restoration of the fire-damaged basement. This began with cleaning out big piles of old clutter and installing new temporary beams to halt the deterioration of the north wall. Phase two included the placement of permanent support beams in the old building’s basement, and the construction of a new floor in the back half of the building’s first story. Support columns were also added to support the second floor and the roof above it. The work was done with great care. The grain, thickness, and wood type of the building’s original floors were matched and interwoven with the new materials. “We don’t want a paint and polish museum,” said Ruth Zalewski, the Victor Lowell Thomas Museum’s Board President. “We want it to stay in the character of an old historic building.”