Deal would lift house – and hopes of Museum

LOREN BENOIT/Press The historic J.C. White House on Sherman Avenue could move to the base of Tubbs Hill just south of City Hall.

By Craig Northrup Staff Writer
| April 30, 2019 1:00 AM

Community leaders are negotiating a project that would lift the historic J.C. White House on Sherman Avenue off its foundation and into a permanent museum space at the base of Tubbs Hill.

Currently titled the North Idaho Museum Relocation Concept, the endeavor would be a joint project with the city of Coeur d’Alene, the Museum of North Idaho and the Tubbs Hill Foundation to financially secure the city icon, physically lift it off its foundation and move it — carefully — down to property just south of City Hall where East Pine Avenue converges with Tubbs Hill Drive.

The project was introduced to ignite cda, Coeur d’Alene’s urban renewal agency, at its April 17 meeting.

“Our vision of the Museum of North Idaho is to become a premier regional museum, and our current facility in City Park will not allow us to do that,” Julie Gibbs, president of the Board of Directors for the Museum of North Idaho, told the ignite cda board. “We’ve outgrown that facility.”

Under this current vision, funds would be secured to purchase the building, move it south and place it onto land mostly owned by ignite cda but partially owned by the city. The land would all be deeded over to the city, which would then form a long-term lease agreement with the museum foundation.

The White House would then be the foundation for the new museum: a foyer to welcome guests, gift shops, administrative offices and production offices. Two additional wings would eventually be built as east and west wings to the new museum for exhibits. The plans also call for the museum to serve as a type of interpretive center for Tubbs Hill.

The Museum of North Idaho now operates on roughly 4,000 square feet of usable space. The Museum keeps some artifacts in storage, rather than display or regularly examine them. The new facility could boast as much as 22,000 square feet while the museum wings could be built in different phases.

Costs for the hypothetical new museum have not been hammered out, nor have the burden-sharing responsibilities for the project. If the city decides to go forward with the project, the next steps are to determine costs, iron out burden-sharing, seek approval and — if approved — begin fundraising efforts.

While Mayor Steve Widmyer would not comment on the negotiations, he did say that all parties hope to find a happy solution.

“At this point,” Widmyer told The Press, “we’re really just making sure that we’re working the numbers right for everybody. We want this to be a win-win for everybody.”

Organizers are hoping to present the plan May 7 to the Coeur d’Alene City Council, pending input from invested third parties. The presentation would be informative only; no vote is currently scheduled.