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A historic end: Old Becker County Museum building demolished

Through a brisk wind and intermittent rain, a large excavator demolished the old Becker County Museum building on Wednesday. The museum's new home, attached to the Historic Holmes Theatre, is expected to be open to the public for the first time on Feb. 17 during the 2023 Polar Fest, according to a museum official.

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An excavator destroys the old Becker County Museum during the demolition of the old building site on Nov. 9, 2022. The Becker County Historical Society plans to move into their new building, attached to the Historic Holmes Theatre and Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, in early 2023.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — In one of the last major hurdles before the Becker County Historical Society moves into its new home, attached to the Historic Holmes Theatre in downtown Detroit Lakes, the old museum building was demolished on Wednesday.

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Becky Mitchell, executive director of the Becker County Historical Society and Museum, livestreams an excavator destroying the old Becker County Museum.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

A large excavator meticulously toppled the brick and steel of the Becker County Museum's old home — where it was located for 33 years — on Nov. 9. Many onlookers said they experienced mixed emotions because of childhood memories, but also the historical upgrade for the lakes area in the coming months.

"It's a little mixed, a lot mixed, actually, many, many generations of work went into getting us into this facility and, now, to see it go down, it's sad, but it's also really exciting to think about the future and all the work that has gone into the next phase of the Becker County Museum," said Becky Mitchell, executive director of the Becker County Historical Society and Museum. "It's about two decades in the making ... and it really came down to finding the right plan."

She added, about seven years ago, when she took over the museum, the problems with the building were apparent.

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"Everything was leaking and just not in great condition, and too many people did not have a relationship with our entity, so we really needed to take a step back and really think about what is our vision for our county museum, and how can we serve our county in a time when museums are making changes," said Mitchell. "What was popular, or what was "in," several years ago, that's changing a lot with museums, so we're all trying to re-imagine ourselves a little bit."

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An excavator destroys the old Becker County Museum during the demolition of the old building site on Nov. 9, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

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An excavator destroys the old Becker County Museum during the demolition of the old building site on Nov. 9, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Mitchell also said the new facility's controlled environment will play a key role in preserving the museum's artifacts. An expanded focus on children's programming and science should help create new generations of supporters, all with shared, positive memories of the new Becker County Museum.

"This new facility brings everything that we need from a historic standpoint of preservation, and display, and research," she said. "And, this new facility, with the amount of space that we have, should truly have something for everyone in our county. No matter your age, no matter your physical ability, it will have something for everyone."

The old building site will be made into a shared parking lot for the new museum, Holmes Theatre and Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center. Mitchell added they hope to have to public tour the new building for the first time during the 2023 Polar Fest in Detroit Lakes beginning on Feb. 17.

"We may not have everything setup and ready to go, there's a lot of work still happening inside, but where ever we are at, we are going to open the doors," she said. "We need that. As much as our community needs it, we need a goal and we need to start moving forward."

Another onlooker who was filming the demolition, April Crowell, said she needed to stop her vehicle when she noticed the building being torn down.

"When I was younger, I used to come in here all the time, there's a lot of memories," said Crowell. "But, I'm looking forward to the new museum."

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She added her father, Tom, worked as a contractor on a team that installed the museum's roof, which has always made the building feel a little more special.

"It's just amazing watching the walls crash down, and they picked up the piano, and all those memories just being crushed in minutes," she said.

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An excavator lifts an old piano out of the old Becker County Museum during the demolition of the old building site on Nov. 9, 2022. The Becker County Historical Society plans to move into their new building, attached to the Historic Holmes Theatre and Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, in early 2023.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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An excavator lifts an old piano out of the old Becker County Museum during the demolition of the old building site on Nov. 9, 2022. The Becker County Historical Society plans to move into their new building, attached to the Historic Holmes Theatre and Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, in early 2023.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Before the demolition began, Mitchell met with members of the Leighton Broadcasting team in the new museum building to finalize plans for a recording studio that will be installed in the new museum. The new studio is expected to allow the historical society to record oral histories, provide a podcast-makers space, provide a history of radio broadcasting and give users a real-life learning environment for broadcasting.

The new museum site will also host 150 years' worth of newspaper archives from the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Becker County Record, which will be delivered to the museum in coming months.

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Bricks shatter as an excavator destroys the old Becker County Museum during the demolition of the old building site on Nov. 9, 2022. The Becker County Historical Society plans to move into their new building, attached to the Historic Holmes Theatre and Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, in early 2023.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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An excavator destroys the old Becker County Museum during the demolition of the old building site on Nov. 9, 2022. The Becker County Historical Society plans to move into their new building, attached to the Historic Holmes Theatre and Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, in early 2023.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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An excavator destroys the old Becker County Museum during the demolition of the old building site on Nov. 9, 2022. The Becker County Historical Society plans to move into their new building, attached to the Historic Holmes Theatre and Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, in early 2023.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

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The old Becker County Museum building sits waiting to be demolished on Nov. 9, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Related Topics: DETROIT LAKESBECKER COUNTYCONSTRUCTION BECKER COUNTY MUSEUMPOLAR FEST
Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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