History museum pricetag at $1M 

Start-up costs for the Burlingame-Hillsborough History Museum are approximately $1.1 million, a hefty sum that Burlingame Historical Society officials hope to raise by this fall.

The Burlingame Historical Society wants the empty historic Burlingame Caltrain Station building to become its new home sometime during the city’s centennial year celebration, which starts in June. The group had its first look Sunday at the needed changes — and how much those changes would cost — to bring the century-old building up to museum quality and how to keep the integrity of the historic building itself intact.

The Caltrain Joint Powers Board and the historical society solidified a deal last summer regarding use of the long-empty train station building, said Russ Cohen historical society president and Burlingame City Councilman. The lease allows the historical society to use the high-ceiling space now filled with old, wooden benches, as long as it pays for the maintenance costs.

The historical society has raised approximately $5,700 for the new museum. Officials may start a foundation to help raise funds and are actively searching for grant writers to seek out state and national funds for the project.

Using one such grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the historical society hired architects Michael Garavaglia and Richard Terrones to perform an evaluation of the station, which opened for service in 1894, and help form a vision of what the museum would look like.

Garavaglia, a San Francisco-based preservation architect, said that while there has been some renovation to the building over the years, keeping the characteristic stucco, shaped parapets and clay roof tile are essential to preserving its history.

"Obviously, any changes to the building have to be done very thoughtfully," Garavaglia said.

Terrones, who took the lead on describing the museum’s future, said that music, lighting and the usual then-and-now set of photos were essential. But making the museum more interactive would keep people coming back, said Terrones, who calculated the $1.1 million in start-up costs.

Part of the interactive vision involves uncovering a fireplace —currently blocked by stucco and a bulletin board — to give the drafty building more of a living room feel with chairs and photos. A video camera, where people can record their own oral reports of anything ranging from last week’s school dance to how Burlingame Avenue used to look, is in the cards near the fireplace area.

A mystery room, where anyone can help the historical society identify some unknown people and artifacts in the collection of 125,000, is planned. Cohen is also continuing talks on securing a Caltrain storage area on the property for classic cars and other large historical items.

"The museum should be a place for those to come and remember, as well as for those to come and discover," Terrones said.

Anyone wishing to make contributions can send checks to the Burlingame Historical Society, P.O. Box 144, Burlingame, CA 94011. E-mail Russ Cohen at russ@russcohen.com for more information.

tramroop@examiner.com

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