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Work to begin soon on Capitol building, property

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners heard an update Tuesday evening, Jan. 21, on the state-led project to preserve the Old Capitol Building and revamp the entire square in downtown Corydon, all in time for the state’s bicentennial celebration in 2016.
Laura Minzes, assistant director of museum and historic sites, said she expects the project to begin at any time.
Minzes said Weddle Brothers Construction out of Evansville won the bid for the project out of three bids, including one from Harrison County.
Minzes said they’ll try to keep the capitol building ‘ which sees thousands of visitors throughout the year ‘ open as much as possible.
A few trees, including one of the largest ones on the property, will be taken out.
The large ash tree, 52 inches in circumference, on the south side of the square is leaning toward Beaver Street and would do significant damage to vehicles and businesses if it were to fall.
A state urban forester recently assessed all of the trees on the property, Minzes said, and recommended the ash tree be removed. It also shows signs of the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive creature destroying ash trees throughout the region.
The ash will be replaced with another large canopy tree, she said, such as a tulip poplar, which happens to be the state tree.
Two to three other trees will be taken out along the drainage route and not be replaced.
The main goal of the project is to fix the drainage issue in and around the Old Capitol building. Minzes said the structure was built on an ancient river bed.
‘As well as most of Corydon,’ she said.
She said the capitol building sits in an area that acts like a bowl and, hopefully, they’ll be able to stretch that out.
‘We want to help the building last for at least another 200 years,’ she said.
A rain garden will be placed on the corner of Beaver Street and Capitol Avenue, behind the Gov. Frank O’Bannon Memorial area. The garden will slow and direct stormwater drainage. Minzes said there’s a clogged drainage pipe in that area now.
The scope of the plan also includes upgrading the electrical and plumbing work and enhancing the square for people with disabilities. A new, small utility building will be constructed near the Hurley D. Conrad Memorial Bandstand, and the current shed will be demolished.
The project also will include new lighting and, overall, will act as a face lift for the square, Minzes said.
Improvements will be made to the bandstand as well.
The latest rendering of the project can be seen at the Blaine H. Wiseman Visitor Center and at the Wright Interpretive Center, both in downtown Corydon.
In other business, the board heard a request from the Battle of Corydon Memorial Park Committee and the Historical Society of Harrison County to move the Battle of Corydon/Civil War museum (currently housed in The Emporium) to the old jail/archives building as part of the Harrison County Museum project.
To date, the battle museum has had more than 4,000 visitors from eight countries. With the effort of county historian Dan Bays, continued support of the facility owners, Mark and Michael Wiseman, and grant support from the Harrison County Community Foundation, the museum has been open regular hours for 18 months.
Battle park committee president Ed Runden said out of 92 counties in Indiana, 71 have historical museums, ‘some with history that can be written on the back of an old envelope.
‘I think it’s time for us to begin working diligently on a history museum … ‘ he said. ‘If a county with perhaps more history than any doesn’t have a museum for the bicentennial, then perhaps we ought to re-think things a little bit.’
The proposal includes the creation of the nonprofit Harrison County Museum Association, composed of community members with a demonstrated interest in Corydon’s history, Runden said.
‘We recommend that the initial development of the museum be under the supervision of county historian Dan Bays with support from the Corydon Battle Park Committee … In the longer term, we seek full development of the museum with a part-time paid director working under a board representing the community. The Corydon Battle Park Committee does not seek to be in control of the museum beyond its inception.’
Karen Schwartz, president of the county’s historical society and leader of the March to Museum movement, supported the plan and said they’d be able to place the Harrison County Driving Tour exhibit in the museum right away.
‘We’re ready to move in,’ she said.
The long-term goal is to charge admission to the museum and become self-sufficient with a part-time director.
Maxine Brown, owner of the Leora Brown School, said she thought a planning committee should be formed for the museum.
Larry Shickles, Harrison County Parks board president, said the plan should come before the park board before the county votes on it.
‘I think the park board would be very supportive,’ he said.
Commissioner Kenny Saulman advised to get everyone together and come back with an official plan.
‘We’re excited about it also,’ he said.
The commissioners’ next meeting will be Monday, at 8:30 a.m. at the Government Center in south Corydon.