Talks resume to house Tupper Lake museum, rail group at same site

The Tupper Lake Historical Museum in the Next Stop! Tupper Lake train station in 2019. Aaron Cerbone/Adirondack Daily Enterprise

TUPPER LAKE — Last week it looked like the Tupper Lake Historical Museum would lose its home at the Junction train station, owned by Next Stop! Tupper Lake, as the Adirondack Railroad Preservation Society prepares to move in. But this week, members of all three organizations said negotiations are back on track to house both in the building.

ARPS is preparing to introduce tourist train service from Utica to Tupper Lake as the state rehabilitates the rail corridor as part of its rail-trail project. The end of the line would be at the Tupper Lake station on Main Street.

When the museum lost its home at the former fire station on Pine Street in 2018, it moved its gallery 530 feet over to the station, which was not being used at the time.

Dan McClelland is the chairman of Next Stop! Tupper Lake and a member of the museum board. He brought in the museum and would like it to stay.

“I’m hoping we can find room in the station for everyone,” said McClelland, who also owns and edits the Tupper Lake Free Press newspaper. “But if push comes to shove, I built that station with the support of a lot of people in Tupper Lake, and the aim was to be a train station, so that is what it’s going to be.”

Museum President Kathleen Lefebvre said the historic collection is in need of a permanent home and said the train station is a good spot for it.

“We can’t keep moving,” she said. “We just moved.”

Lefebvre is also a member of the Next Stop! Tupper Lake board.

She said ARPS Executive Director Justin Gonyo told her the museum will have to pare down the size of exhibits there to make room for train operations. She’s willing to do this.

Some exhibits would stay and take up a smaller space on the edges of the building. Others would need to be moved to another location for storage or to set up new exhibits.

If a deal is not reached, the museum would have to be out of the station by October.

“We are working with the museum,” Gonyo told the Enterprise. “That’s all I have to say.”

ARPS pays rent to Next Stop! Tupper Lake for its space in the building.

The building was built by volunteers using donations and was finished in 2008. McClelland said his organization and the town of Tupper Lake split ownership of the property currently, but he’d like to transfer ownership wholly to the town eventually.

When the museum moved in 2018, the town was selling the building it was in after the structure had fallen into disrepair.

Lefebvre said it was a big undertaking to move, and she doesn’t know where the historic society could house the collection if it had to move again.

Lefebvre thinks having the museum in the train station would be beneficial for both. As passengers depart the train, they could be introduced to Tupper Lake and learn the history of the places they’ll be visiting.

Lefebvre said the museum board is trying to convince ARPS that they’ll be a good fit.

Lefebvre said the museum needs to be visible. She said there’s been a big increase in visitors since it moved from the old fire station, on a side street, to the train station on the main road through town.

Lefebvre said the museum’s first summer in the train station, 2019, saw great attendance, with people coming to browse the collection from 26 states and from Australia, Germany and Canada.

Last year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, she said the museum still had a good turnout, all things considered.

Lefebvre said Tupper Lake needs a history museum. It has stories to tell about railroads, Sunmount, the lumber mills, the Oval Wood Dish factory, families who founded the town still living there and the big fire that nearly destroyed the town in 1899.

Lefebvre said the organization is working to incorporate as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit again. It lost its status years ago and has wanted to renew it recently.

The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays throughout June. Starting in July it will hold the same hours every day of the week but will be closed on Sundays.

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