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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Trading Post museum president outlines plans for new center

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

A proposed plan for a new tourism center at Trading Post would include demolishing the current museum building and housing its contents in the new building. (Ali Hamilton/Special to the Journal)

MOUND CITY – On Tuesday, Feb. 21, Trading Post Historical Society Board President Ali Hamilton gave a presentation to the Linn County Commissioners before asking for their support for a SPRINT grant of approximately $8 million from the Kansas Department of Commerce to build a 16,000-square-foot facility.

Hamilton explained the history of the Trading Post Museum. She said that her great grandfather Charles Murray went to the Linn County Commission in the 1970s and told them that Trading Post would be the best location to develop a Linn County Museum. When the commission decided to located the Linn County Museum in Pleasanton instead, Murray went ahead and constructed a building at Trading Post and started a museum there.

Hamilton presented the current operating budget for the museum and Commission Chair Danny McCullough said this was exactly what he would like to see yearly from every entity that receives tax dollars in Linn County.

The budget showed the 2022 expenses of $21,644. The museum uses grants and donations to supplement the $8,000 from the county.

Hamilton explained that for years the county had budgeted $40,000 for the museums in Linn County and the money was given to the Linn County Museum in Pleasanton to distribute.

In 2016, Hamilton had requested that the money be divided evenly among the five museums in the county, Pleasanton (Linn County Museum), Trading Post, La Cygne, Mound City, and Parker. She said that the distributions had been difficult to get from the Linn County Museum, which required that museum directors come to Pleasanton to get their checks.

A couple of years later she said that she requested that the county distribute $8,000 to each museum separately.

Discussion was held on the ownership of the museum in Pleasanton. Hamilton said she had been approached by Linn County Public Works Director Shaun West who was inquiring about who owned the museum, because he wanted to talk about some equipment that was on the property.

In a later phone conversation Hamilton said that she decided to look up who owned the property and on the GIS mapping it showed that the city of Pleasanton owned the property.

Hamilton said she talked with new historical society president Theresa Miller and Ola Mae Earnest, long-time museum curator, and they said the society had a contract that said the city had given the Linn County Historical Society a lifetime lease on the property.

Hamilton suggest that, if that was the case, that information should be recorded at the register of deeds office.

Hamilton pointed out that Trading Post is the only museum opened five days a week from April 1 to Nov. 1, 10 a.m to 5 p.m. ,Wednesday through Sunday. She said that Pleasanton might be open two days a week but the other locations had contact numbers for people to call if they wanted to tour the museums.

Hamilton then explained to the commissioners that she had come to the meeting seeking a letter of support for a grant that she was writing to build a visitor’s bureau/cultural center at Trading Post.

Hamilton said that the grant included tearing down the old building and building a 16,000 square foot new building with museum exhibits, gift shop, a café and bakery, porch and patio, venue, theatre and an Airbnb location.

Hamilton said that while the specifics were still being worked out about admission fees, some ideas were to only charge for admission to the second floor for visitors, and Linn County residents would not be charged.

Other income will be generated from the gift shop, café and Airbnb profits, grants, donations, and events held at the site. She also is working on setting up an endowment foundation.

She said that the Kansas Commerce Department was awarding $30 million for tourism sites that were not owned by county governments. The Trading Post Historical Society is a private non-profit 501c3 entity. Grants will be awarded for amounts from $500,000 to $10 million.

In the phone conversation, she projected that this grant request will be close to $8 million for building infrastructure and renovation.

She told the commissioners that operating costs could be around $350,000 per year.

Sue Vicory, a rural Mound City filmmaker who produced “The Original Jayhawker” documentary, told the commissioners that she supports this project and plans on producing a documentary on the history of the area.

Hamilton asked that the commissioners provide a letter of recommendation for the grant and to agree to financially support the new facility for five years.

Commissioner Jim Johnson said that he would be in favor of a letter of support but with no financial contributions.

Commissioners Johnson and McCullough voted to provide a letter of support for the Trading Post Historical Society SPRINT grant application from the Kansas Department of Commerce. Commissioner Jason Hightower was absent from the meeting.

In the phone conversation later, Hamilton said she was excited to think about partnering with other groups in the county including Kansas Wildlife and Parks, other museums and the commission in developing this as a cultural hub for everything in this area.

She said that she was working with a Potawatomi Tribal member who was going to work on information and exhibits of native culture for the museum.

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