The America's First Great Dam Museum began as a temporary display during the 100th anniversary celebration for the dam spanning the Mississippi River between Keokuk and Hamilton. Supporters believe it will soon become a destination point for visitors to the Tri States region.
The museum opened in the River City Mall as a series of photographs and historic documents available for viewing.
Vice President Kathy Asbury said enough visitors asked that it become a permanent display that it eventually became a reality. She said the museum moved from the mall to a former bank at the corner of 4th and Main Street in downtown Keokuk.
For a while, it appeared that would be the permanent location until the closure of a men’s clothing store made available the building at 428 Main Street.
Asbury said that location was ideal for the museum.
“It was perfect timing for us,” said Asbury. “The building was perfect. We purchased the building and now we are in the process of raising money to finish the interior and the exterior of the building.”
Asbury said the museum’s steering committee had been raising money for the basics: utilities, rent, and upkeep, for example. She said that has changed with the purchase of the new building and the hiring for a firm to come up with a conceptual design for the facility.
Asbury said that design includes space for the city’s tourism office, a gift shop, a theater, and an exhibit room that doubles as a meeting room for local organizations, class reunions, or receptions. She said that will help the museum sustain itself in the future without relying on donations.
“We do not want to depend solely on the community to support us,” said Asbury. “They have been gracious so far, but we want to be self-sustaining.”
But donations are being accepted to help pay for the proposed renovations to the building, which carry a price tag of around $1.5 million.
Asbury said local residents can help with that through an auction scheduled for Sat., Aug. 27 at 6:00 p.m. at the museum in downtown Keokuk.
Among the items up for bid:
- Fishing pole used by Justin Bieber while staying in Hamilton (comes with letter of authenticity)
- Tool Set from when the dam was constructed
- 3 hour boat ride for up to 8 people
- 4 hour bus ride for up to 15 people
- Dinner for 8 at the power plant
- Gift baskets