BRIDGEPORT -- It's a project P.T. Barnum would be proud of, mostly because it's a project designed to repair the famed Barnum Museum.
After sustaining major damage in the EF-1 tornado in June of 2010 and then the subsequent impact from Tropical Storm Irene and Super Storm Sandy, the Barnum Museum brought in the heavy machinery in hopes of one day re-opening. Due to the damages, the museum has been closed nearly five years.
On Friday, the construction involved a crane and rigging wires; expert crews attached, then hoisted, three large steel beams to the third floor of the museum which will be critical in shoring up the roof that has been compromised from the storm damage. "It's a huge step forward," said Kathy Maher, the Barnum Museum's executive director, as she watched with a hard hat on from the adjacent sidewalk on Main Street.
Maher noted that the beams will be instrumental in bringing the 122-year-old building to its former grandeur and provide the support to work on the necessary interior repairs. "Our restoration architects and our engineers have been working with the state historic preservation office because this is is a landmark building," Maher said.
The project, which lasted most of the morning, proved successful and in the days ahead the 12,000-pound steel beams will be put in place -- they are a part of the estimated $20 million it will take to get the museum up and running again. Maher says there is a long road to restoration ahead but thinks the money will be raised and insurance payments will continue to come through.
Her timetable to re-open is for 2019 or 2020. "If the city of Bridgeport is anything, it's resilient and we will persevere and we are going to get this done," she added.
Many of the exhibits and artifacts are on display at the Barnum Gallery which is next door to the historic museum building on Main Street in the People's United Bank building. For more information on visiting the gallery click here.