Museum pillar adoption a success

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Architectural Restorations has been contracted by the Prairie du Chien Historical Society to restore the pillars that hold up the Fort Crawford Museums military hospital veranda. (Photo by Correne Martin)

By Correne Martin

All 26 wooden pillars holding up the Fort Crawford Military Hospital veranda have been adopted by generous Prairie du Chien area community members, so they can be restored and continue to support the museum. The project got underway Monday. 

Circa 1940s, the white-painted pine columns were in deteriorating shape and in need of repair or replacement in order to hold up the fort for the future, said Mary Antoine, Prairie du Chien Historical Society president. Total replacement was cost prohibitive, so the museum reached out to the public with the idea of simply repairing them and received a swift response. 

“This was a very successful sponsorship opportunity,” she said. 

Once each $600 pillar was spoken for, Architectural Restorations, of La Crosse, was contracted to fix the columns, the white trim and gable ends, and also reproduce sections that may be completely rotted. The company, owned by Karl Zenk, was recommended to the historical society by the state restoration architect based upon previous specialized work. 

Zenk and one of his employees were in Prairie du Chien Monday to start the reconditioning. They removed five 93-94-inch pillars and put temporary support beams in their place. The pieces will be taken to a subcontractor to determine how far they’ve rotted from environmental elements, then new components and reinforcements will be made with insect-resistant red grandis wood. Zenk said an insect screen and pressure-treatment will also be placed on the pillars to further protect them, and holes will be drilled at both ends to allow for moisture drainage. Once those five are finished, Elite Painting, of Prairie du Chien, will repaint them. Finally, they will be reinstalled and a new set of five will be removed for the same process. 

The project is estimated to take about three to four weeks, according to Zenk. 

Antoine noted that, though restoration costs have been covered by sponsorships, there is still room to give donations toward painting expenses. Anyone interested may contact the museum at 326-6960.

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