Brookings County Museum reorganizes

BROOKINGS – Partly due to the pandemic, the governing board of the Brookings County Historical Society/Museum voted at its annual meeting earlier this month to try an experimental co-leadership concept.

Society members also elected two new board members, Lynette Nelson of Volga and Janet Gritzner of Brookings. Re-elected to the board were incumbents Larry Ust, Floyd Havrevold and Bob Buchheim, all of Volga, and Patty Kratochvil of Brookings.

Other officers re-elected were Darla Strande of Brookings, treasurer, and Buchheim, secretary.

Two long-time museum leaders, former president Harold Christianson and vice-president Jerry Leslie, both of Volga, are retiring from the board. They were given emeritus status.

For the first time since the society was organized in Brookings in 1939, its leadership will operate through the next 12 months under a co-presidency model.

This will reduce the growing work load for which the society’s president is responsible, including the numerous public contacts necessary. With six buildings in the museum complex and assets in excess of $800,000, a co-presidency can better direct the maintenance and improvements necessary for the museum campus during this unusual period.

Elected co-presidents were incumbent Phil Wagner of Brookings and board member Shirley Deethhardt of Aurora. Among other leadership duties, Deethhardt will work with volunteers in the task of filling out and staging the newly refurbished 1894 James Hauxhurst house with period furnishings and accoutrements of the age.

James Hauxhurst was clerk for the Brookings County Commissioners during the selection of Brookings as the county seat that was then moved from now-defunct Medary to Brookings.

Some years later Hauxhurst built his home on Third Street, across the street south from what became the location of the Brookings Library.

The Hauxhurst home was also located where more than a century later the new County-City governmental services building was constructed on Third Street. Rather than raze the historic old home, a group of interested Brookings citizens about ten years ago provided funds to move it to the museum site in Volga’s City Park.

Since then the museum has raised about $75,000 to refurbish it because it had been converted into apartments. Under the leadership of museum board members Floyd Havrevold and Larry Ust of Volga, the home’s first floor has now been converted back to near its original footprint.

It is hoped the home can be ready for visitors for the 2021 summer season should the COVID-19 pandemic abate by then.


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