CRESTVIEW — Like a rediscovered jewel receiving a final renewing polish, the historic Lorenza Bush House downtown is in its last phase of renovation and could be ready to open as a treasure-filled Crestview history museum by late July.
The white, two-story, 3,661-square-foot Bush House stands under a green metal roof at 198 Wilson St. It was built in 1925-26 for Lorenza Bush, who at the time was the tracks supervisor for the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) Railroad Co.
Background on the museum:Crestview’s Bush House to be renovated for historical center
Earlier:Crestview offices of Elder Services of Okaloosa County have a new home
Triple R Construction of Navarre began an almost $330,000 renovation of the city-owned building last December. The work is anticipated to be completed by the end of May.
Then, Crestview Cultural Services Specialist Brian Hughes and his fellow members of the Crestview Historic Preservation Board will be able to set up their respective offices and museum archives on the building’s second floor and place exhibits, furnishings and other museum items on the first floor.
The museum will have free admission.
“This is going to be a beautiful exhibit display area,” Hughes said Friday after stepping through a narrow, formerly walled-up “pass through” to the future museum’s gallery room.
Like other rooms in the old house, the gallery space is lit with historically accurate lighting fixtures that replaced fluorescent lights. In the gallery room, Hughes opened the door to a corner closet, the walls of which were covered with the original rose-pattern wallpaper that was cherished by Lorenza Bush’s wife, Laura.
“We might put some vintage clothes and luggage and maybe some hats in this closet,” Hughes said.
The gallery room also will feature an exhibit highlighting the 1949 Academy Award-winning war movie “Twelve O’Clock High.” It starred Gregory Peck, and much of it was filmed at Duke Field just south of Crestview.
Clyde Ponder, who is a friend of Hughes’ and lives in Dallas, is loaning to the museum a set of eight 14-by-11-inch “lobby cards” that contain hand-tinted photos of scenes from the movie. Such lobby cards once adorned theater lobbies to advertise films.
“I don’t know if we’ll have room for all eight of them,” Hughes said. “We plan to have an exhibit called Crestview Goes to the Movies. There used to be three theaters in downtown Crestview.”
He said an original screening of “Twelve O’Clock High” was shown in the historic Fox Theatre building on Main Street. Dr. Joshua Kolmetz, who is a native of Baker and practices medicine in downtown Crestview, has donated to the museum a pair of theater seats from the old building, which he is renovating into a performance venue.
The museum’s primary exhibit will focus on the railroad that was vital to Crestview’s formation. Other displays will spotlight area schools and churches.
Videos and descriptive panels about the city’s history will be found in a front room that once was Mrs. Bush’s sitting room, just off the large front porch of the Bush House. Hughes envisions holiday celebrations and story time sessions in the adjacent parlor, which like the sitting room contains a fireplace. The house has a total of four fireplaces.
A donated clawfoot bathtub will go in one of the museum’s public restrooms, which also has a vintage pull-chain toilet. In that restroom, a window that used to overlook the backyard before a long-ago expansion now contains a colorful image of the Shoal River.
Plans also call for a small replica train depot to stand on the north edge of the museum’s parking lot, next to the railroad tracks. In the parking lot, rides will be offered on “Mr. Hasty’s train,” which was a small train that local youths used to ride at local festivals.
Among other tasks in the Bush House renovation, the building’s gas heating system was replaced with a modern electric heating system, ductwork was replaced, old sheetrock was removed, ceiling leaks were repaired, crown molding was added, original heart pine flooring was restored, sagging support beams were repaired and the kitchen was remade to its original appearance.
A large Catawba tree on the north side of the building also was removed to prevent the base of one of its trunks from further damaging the structure. The building’s exterior was pressure-washed and repainted, and a balcony was added outside of Hughes’ second-floor office, matching the balcony that was in place when the Bush family lived in the house.
In recent decades, the house was used for a variety of purposes. For example, the local offices of the nonprofit Elder Services of Okaloosa County had been housed in part of the house since at least early 1980.
The relocation of those offices to the United Way Emerald Coast building at 290 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. directly behind the Bush House was completed this past January.
The city is using $250,000 in state funding to pay for most of the $329,800 Bush House renovation cost, with the remainder paid for with city Community Redevelopment Agency money.