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Historic museum spared from deadly Sun Prairie explosion

Posted at 5:07 PM, Aug 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-16 19:32:27-04

For the first time since a deadly gas explosion rocked downtown Sun Prairie, TODAY'S TMJ4 went inside the Sun Prairie Historical Library and Museum.  

The building is three doors down from the site of the explosion on Main Street. Eight windows were affected, but the artifacts are intact.  

"We had windows on three sides of the buildings that were broken or blown out," said Joe Chase, Sun Prairie Historical Library and Museum Board Chairman.

The windows will need to be custom made.  They are covered with plywood and foam board for now.

"They said the pressures that happened from inside the building just kind of went right through the building and blew out the other side," said Chase.

The building was home to the first settler in 1840.  Then is 1924, it became a public library.  It's been a museum since 1967.  The Sun Prairie Historical Library and Museum is full of displays dedicated to families in Sun Prairie, including hometown girl Georgia O'Keeffe.  The artifacts are disheveled, but they weren't harmed in the blast. 

"You'll see around that all of our exhibits are stacked in different piles in anticipation of when we can get back to putting them on the walls," said Chase.

Jean Belanger Downey lived in Sun Prairie for 36 years before she moved south.  She was back in town Thursday looking at the site. 

"Very emotional.  I can't believe there could be this much damage," said Jean Belanger Downey.

She is thankful her family heirlooms in the museum are safe. 

"Something that your children and grandchildren can go see," said Belanger Downey.

Jessica Grant heard the explosion back in July, but today was her first time to see the destruction in person.

"We didn't want to be here right after it because it's kind of depressing... It'll be the same because everyone really treasures the history of this town," said Jessica Grant.

The town's past is helping keep neighbors optimistic about the future of their downtown. 

"We've has these disruptions in the past and we've come back stronger for it," said Chase.

The museum will be closed through the end of the year.  Organizers plan to create a display revolving around the explosion. 

Today city leaders updated the public about the work downtown.  Workers will remove the damaged buildings and fill in the basements by the end of August.  Road work is slated to start in September.