pefw cgeo · 2021-01-25

Museum plans $1.5M expansion

The Orillia Museum of Art and History will double its exhibit space with a renovation of its upper floors, a project pegged at about $1.5 million.

Board chair Will Davis said utilizing the second and third floors of the historic Sir Sam Steele building would make available another 6,000 square feet of sorely needed space for exhibitions.

“We have so many items in storage right now, we need the square footage to put things on exhibit,” Davis added.

Today, many artworks and artifacts of historical significance are housed below grade, some of them in the subterranean cells that once housed prisoners during the building’s days as a police station.

Renovating the upper two floors will allow the museum to expand its operation and bring many of these pieces into the light of day, said program director Katie Calcaterra.

“We have over 100 pieces of art,” said Calcaterra. “We have 20 Group of Seven pieces, we have Arthur Shilling – lots of really important artists from the area. If you have more than one gallery offering different things for people to see, then it’s a smarter way of doing it.”

A preliminary estimate pegs the cost of construction at about $1.5 million.

Davis is hoping work can begin next year.

“I think the shovel would be in the ground some time in 2010,” he added.

The project, which follows on the heels of an ambitious renovation several years ago of the building’s ground floor, will include a sprinkler system on all floors and an elevator.

Designed by Thomas Fuller and completed in 1894, the red brick and limestone building served as a federal customs house and a post office until its purchase by the city in 1956.

It would come to house a police station, courthouse, jail and office space for various organizations before undergoing a $1.1 million restoration and renovation of its ground floor, basement and roof in 2004.

In addition to its regularly rotating exhibits, the museum offers art programs for children and adults and a research room where residents can access a database of historic photographs and genealogical information.

Additional space is planned for educational programs.

“That is part of our mandate,” Calcaterra said.

The museum must finalize its budget and seek out grants before launching a capital campaign, which could happen between the fall of 2009 and the spring of 2010, Davis said.