Sesquicentennial: Old artifacts, new place

ESCANABA – The expansion of the Delta County Historical Society’s museum turned out much better than what was ever imagined, commented the philanthropist who made it all happen.

“I never expected this. It’s far better than I dreamed,” said Dr. John Beaumier of Duluth, a former Escanaba resident who donated $1 million for the building’s renovation.

Beaumier was thanked countless times Monday during the museum’s open house, which was attended by several people who were anxious to catch their first look at the new building.

A 3,766-square-foot addition was constructed on the west end of the former museum to house a new archive area, a multipurpose/meeting room, restrooms, and a lobby and admissions area. A 1,600-square-foot addition on the east houses exhibits and an exhibit prep area. The building’s north and south sides were expanded to include more display space.

Beaumier said he donated the funds for the project because he was concerned about the deterioration of the museum’s archives.

“Once it’s gone, you can’t retrieve it,” he said, adding, “This building was long overdue.” He also joked that the old museum’s smell got to him.

The facility is called the “Dr. John Beaumier Museum and Archives.” In recognition of his generosity, the Water Plant Road in front of the building was renamed Beaumier Way.

Beaumier was born and raised in Escanaba. After graduating from Northern Michigan University in 1953, he completed medical school at Marquette University. Following an internship at the Naval Hospital and five years in the Navy, he was accepted by the Mayo Clinic for a residency in orthopedics.

He later moved to Marshfield, Wis., where he was on the staff of the Marshfield Clinic. For 25 years, he operated an orthopedics practice in Grand Forks, N.D. In 1992, he joined the staff of Mayo Clinic, retiring in 1998 to his boyhood home of Escanaba. He and his wife, Mary Jane, now reside in Duluth, Minn.

During his retirement in Escanaba, Beaumier served on the board and was president of the historical society.

“The whole society was a thankless job for years,” he said, adding the members kept the museum going through their volunteer efforts.

During Beaumier’s presentation at the open house ceremony, he thanked the volunteers as well as God.

Beaumier’s son, the Rev. Casey Beaumier, offered the invocation for Monday’s ceremony, saying the museum will serve many generations to come.

Clara Mosenfelder, a society member for the past five decades, officially accepted Beaumier’s gift to fund the museum’s renovations.

“The museum is far beyond what anyone dreamed of,” she said, expressing the society’s wholehearted gratitude.

Mosenfelder praised Beaumier for his intelligence, diligence, and sense of humor. She thanked him for his thoughtfulness and generosity in preserving memories of the people and places of Delta County.

Mayor Leo Evans told those attending the ceremony, “The museum enhances the city of Escanaba and makes it a much better place to live and play and enjoy.”

The museum has been a partnership with the city of Escanaba since 1957, explained Charles Lindquist, president of the local historical society.

The historical society foundation pays the city $1 a year to lease the land where the museum is located. Insurance and utility costs are paid by the society. The group also operates the Sand Point Lighthouse and a historical boathouse containing a restored U.S. Coast Guard boat.

Lindquist said the museum expansion project was a result of Beaumier’s own “bucket list” of how he could help others and give back to the community.

“This is a bigger building, a new building to store and exhibit documents and objects in a safe and more attractive way,” Lindquist commented while people toured the facility Monday.

The new multi-purpose room can be used for groups to gather for meetings or presentations, he said.

The expanded space will allow for more displays as well as larger exhibits. New windows offer a view of the bay.

At Beaumier’s recommendation, the design of the building was created by Blomquist Architects of Iron Mountain in cooperation with the historical society. Gundlach Champion was the project’s general contractor.

Site work began last November and the building was completed in time for the Esky150 Celebration, as planned.

The exhibit areas will be open from Memorial Day to Labor Day while the archives room and multipurpose room will be open year around.