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Orange Grove Area Museum reopens after rebuilding from fire

Orange Grove Area Museum reopens after rebuilding from fire
Posted at 9:31 PM, Apr 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-14 23:19:10-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Orange Grove Area Museumreopened its doors Thursday afternoon, nearly one year after a building fire.

Last Easter, a fire broke out near the rear of the building, according to The Orange Grove Volunteer Fire Department. The flames and smoke damaged the roof and side of the museum, then spread to the connected gas station.

“Well it makes you want to cry," Jan Rusk said, the Museum Curator. "There’s nothing you can do about it and hopefully we can replace some of it sometimes."

Rusk has worked with the museum for more than a decade.

“This museum is Orange Grove. This is the way it was established and this is the way it grew," Rusk said.

She even has her own connection to the museum. Her grandson went to the Marines and when he passed away, some of his belongings and pictures were kept in the museum as historical military artifacts.

She describes how emotional it is to know that piece of her grandson is gone because of the fire.

"Of all of the stuff we were losing, we had a military room that had history from World War I in it. We had three notebooks with pictures and stories inside of Colton that reflected his time in the Marines,” she said.

Rusk said although those pieces of her grandson were burned in the fire, she never forgets his courage and humor.

Immediately after the fire last April, the community came together and organized fundraisers, auctions, and offered donations to help rebuild the damaged portion of the museum. Three days short of one year later, the Orange Grove Area Museum was back in business.

“We had the outside wall structurally evaluated by an engineer to make sure it was sound. Then, we put a brand new roof on the cafe side of the museum. Then we had all new electrical installed with LED lighting," Ernest Henderson, President of the Museum Board of Directors said.

Henderson has worked with the museum for more than 20 years. He said the community was very generous and supportive of the efforts to bring the museum back.

"There were valuable items and artifacts that were lost in the fire that can never be replaced and that's really difficult," Henderson said. "We had a military room where local veterans had donated their military uniforms and their medals and awards and that melted in the fire."

Now that the museum is back open, everyone involved in its restructuring said they're excited to be perfectly timed with the annual Pioneer Days festival, happening Saturday, April 15.

"The festival is right here in this two-block, downtown area and we're right in the middle of it," he said. "Everyone is welcome to stop by the museum while they enjoy the festival. There will be vendor booths, music until midnight, and arts and crafts for the kids."

Henderson added that the community's support has been key to getting the doors back open to this landmark.

Ernest and Jan said they'll miss some of the most unique pieces that were lost in the fire but are celebrating the move forward in hopes continue to give people a little piece of history that can live on for decades.

There is no admission charge to the Orange Grove Area Museum during Pioneer Days, but donations toward operating expenses are always welcome.

Grove Area Museum Hours:

Tuesday CLOSED
Wednesday10 A.M. - 4 P.M.
Thursday10 A.M. - 4 P.M.
Friday10 A.M. - 4 P.M.
Saturday10 A.M. - 2 P.M.

Click here to learn more and see updates from Orange Grove Area Museum.

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