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History Museum’s Delmar Property To Support Loop Trolley

(Missouri History Museum)

The Missouri History Museum’s long-vacant Delmar Boulevard property — whose purchase contributed to the departure of former Missouri History Museum head Robert Archibald — will finally be put to use.

The Museum’s board of trustees has granted a license to use the land at 5863 Delmar to St. Louis’ Loop Trolley Development District.

It will be used to store materials and equipment for the Trolley project, at a cost of $10 a month for two years. A fee of $2,500 a month would be added if usage continues into 2016. Any construction on the site will remain the property of the Museum.

The trolley district will pay all property taxes and insurance costs during the term of the lease. It will also build a security fence at its own expense. Because it is a license rather than a lease, the History Museum retains the right to sell the property during the license period. 

For example: "If we struck oil, we could sell it," Museum attorney Frank Wolff, Jr. told board members.

The Trolley project, though, may face further legal issues even after a U.S. District Judge dismissed one lawsuit this past April.

If it does come to fruition, it would help the Museum by transporting visitors. Board chairman John Roberts said it may have other benefits.

"We also believe the trolley is a real opportunity to enhance the value of the [Delmar] property," Roberts said.

The Delmar property has sat unused since the Museum bought it in 2006 from former St. Louis mayor Freeman Bosley. The land was at one time slated to become a community space.

The acquisition was called into question for a number of reasons. Bosley had only recently stepped down from the museum’s board of trustees at the time of purchase. And a later appraisal found the property was worth less than one-third of its $875,000 purchase price.

Archibald resigned in December 2012 amid furor over the Delmar property, along with his salary and benefits. When he stepped down from the museum, he also left the trolley planning board and the museum rescinded a $1 million pledge for the project. New president Frances Levine took office in January of this year.

The museum board today also voted to approve -- pending receipt of funding -- an agreement with Soldiers Memorial Military Museum to inventory its historical artifacts. The endeavor will involve cataloging photographs, uniforms, flags, firearms and other items, and noting any restoration issues. The number of artifacts is in the thousands, dating back to 1938. The collection has never been inventoried.

None of the work will be done at the History Museum.

A gift by the Taylor family, of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, is expected to pay for the undertaking. The process is estimated to cost at least $1 million and take two years.

Karen Goering, the museum's managing director of operations, said the benefactors may eventually endow a fund to renovate Soldiers Memorial. They have shown interest in talking with Museum officials about that process in the future, Goering said.

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