Scattered rain couldn’t dampen the excitement of those who gathered Wednesday to symbolically break ground for a new museum in the Heritage Center at Community Park.
“We have museums to remind us of how we came, and why: to start fresh, and begin a new place from what we had learned and carried from the old,” said Mohave County District 2 Sup. Hildy Angius, quoting author Lois Lowry in her address to the crowd.
“The Colorado River Museum is such a thing — where time is transformed into space,” Angius continued. “We are all here for a short time, yet all our actions, large and small, pay tribute to the story of who we are and how we got here.”
The story of the museum has come full circle, said Bullhead City Mayor Tom Brady, who began his career in Mohave County in 1982 in the then just-acquired David Camp property that houses the former Catholic church where the museum is now located.
“So 30-some years ago we started this process and today we are going to break the ground on a brand new beautiful museum that will preserve the history for Bullhead City for decades to come and for future generations,” Brady said. “For this I think we should all be so very grateful to all those people who have given their time and effort to make it happen.”
In mid-April, an anonymous donor contacted the Historical Society board of directors with the offer to fund the new building at the Colorado River Heritage Center at Community Park.
“It’s so absolutely wonderful, I can’t put it in words,” said Elsie Needles, Colorado River Historical Society president. “It’s just that everything that I ever imagined is going to be happening here.”
Larry Adams, Pueblo Construction president and designer of the new museum building, hopes that with the substantial start, the community will support the museum and its eventual phased expansion to 6,000 square feet.
“This facility isn’t of adequate size to even house what the museum has in artifacts now, but these things evolve over time,” Adams said. “There are very few dedicated people carrying the whole load of this museum and they sure need some help. I’m sure the financial support will follow this; the museum is something the community can be very proud of. I’m pleased to be a part of it.”
The new building joins the Moss Mine head frame and the Lil’ Red Schoolhouse in the Colorado River Heritage Center at Community Park.
The idea for the heritage center came from Dick Whittington, former chief executive officer of Golden Vertex Corporation, which operates the Moss Mine near Bullhead City, and Whittington’s wife, Gillian.
Golden Vertex moved its Moss Mine head frame to the park in 2013 at its own expense and donated it to the city; in 2015, the Lil’ Red Schoolhouse, the city’s first school, was moved from Lee Avenue and Third Street to the Heritage Center, and serves as a museum of its own, run by CRHS volunteers.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” said Jack Hakim, former Bullhead City mayor. “Jill and Dick Whittington pushed to make this center in Community Park and I want to thank them even though they’re not here today, and thank everyone so much who have all worked so hard to make this happen.”
The old church building was deemed too structurally unsound to be moved and the decision was made to build a new structure. The Historical Society had raised $60,000 toward its $250,000 goal when the anonymous donor made the offer of funding the building.
“She’s a resident of the area,” Needles said. “Without her stepping up and giving to the community, this would not have happened so soon. From the bottom of my heart I can’t thank her enough. She is a wonderful lady and she is doing so much for the whole town of Bullhead.”
The city has made the commitment to budget for all utility costs of the new museum, said Bullhead City Manager Toby Cotter.
“It’s a location for all of our tourists, all of our residents, all of our school groups – for everyone to learn about our history,” Cotter said. “So it’s a win-win for the city and the historical society and our residents, who will benefit, as the mayor said, for decades.”
Barring the unexpected, the museum should be open in time for the Historic Society Christmas party, Needles said.
“This is going to be a great destination for people to come to,” Needles said. “It will be a heritage center and we’re going to keep building on that until we have a wonderful building reflecting our community and its history.”