VALPARAISO — The Porter County Museum's downtown presence will expand with the acquisition of an office building that previously had been a longtime gas station on the courthouse square.
The Porter County Museum Foundation today takes possession of 20 Indiana Ave., which most recently was a title insurance office.
It will serve as a permanent home for the foundation, and provide office space for the museum staff, said foundation chairwoman Joanne Urschel.
The building is adjacent to the two buildings directly to the west now occupied by the museum, which are undergoing restoration and used to be the city's police station, and many years ago city hall and a music store.
The property sits directly across Franklin Street from the current museum, which is housed in the former Porter County Jail.
Museum director Kevin Pazour said the foundation had been considering the purchase of the building for about two years, about the time restoration work began on the two adjacent buildings.
Most recently, the building was home to Fidelity Title Insurance Co., which had leased the space from 1st Source Bank, which owned the property.
Prior to becoming an office building, the lot was a longtime gas station, owned for many years by Max Hildreth and the Hildreth family, Pazour said.
And, to the surprise of the museum staff, a part of the sales building from the 1932 service station remains intact inside the building.
Pazour said he hopes the exterior of the current building could be re-made to capture the essence of that 1932 building, with similar white enamel brick and other architectural features, and to restore some of the original building inside the current structure.
The corner building will be used for office and presentation space, which was a remaining concern in the museum's expansion plans to 16 and 18 Indiana Ave.
Pazour said the building is already ADA compliant, is climate controlled and has restrooms on the first floor, features 16 and 18 Indiana do not yet have.
Urschel said a donation from a single source paid for the building, but the source of that donation will be made public at a later date.
"We're really excited about, because it gives our foundation a home," Urschel said.
"We've worked for many years to become the professional organization we are now."
Urschel praised Pazour's efforts secure the building for the foundation and lead the expansion of the museum.
"I’m just so proud of Kevin and his vision, for being realistic and supporting it and making sure it happened," she said. "He's so easy to work with and he has so many good ideas."
Pazour said he hopes people will come forward with pictures and stories about the old service station to help preserve its history.