Calico Rock group continues work on city’s coal house

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published December 2, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated November 30, 2012 at 11:42 a.m.
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— Members of the Calico Rock-based Questers chapter Calico Bluffs are continuing their efforts to raise the funds needed to restore an old coal house in the city.

Located on the grounds of the Calico Rock Museum at 104 Main St., the house once provided the coal that not only warmed houses throughout the city but ran trains coming through on the local railroad system. Along with the Calico Rock Museum Foundation, the members of Calico Bluffs — more than a dozen in all — hope to restore the coal house to include period furnishings and displays.

“We’ve already gone in and bought a lot of period furniture,” Calico Bluffs President Dot Sanders said. “Now we’re working to replace the windows and put in a wood floor.”

If all goes to plan, renovations should be completed by this summer. A fundraising tea service in early November raised around $600 for the project, and Sanders estimates that Calico Bluffs members have donated nearly that much in furniture.

The restoration project is the work of the Questers, the museum and the city of Calico Rock, which owns the building. According to museum Executive Committee chairman Steven Mitchell, the group made a donation of $300 to the museum to help with the restoration of the windows and add a handicapped-accessible entry.

“Our main focus this winter will be on restoring the basement of the museum building, which will become a state-of-the-art conference and education center,” Mitchell said. “It will include exhibit space and space for artisans to demonstrate their craft, which is a real link to the historical aspect of our community’s everyday life.”

Taking on the coal house project is part of Calico Bluffs’ commitment to historical things and places. The group’s parent organization, Questers, was founded in the 1940s around a love of antiquing. Now the nonprofit organization works to help preserve historic buildings and areas as well.

Calico Bluffs adopted the coal house as part of the Questers’ “This Place Matters” program, in which chapters adopt historically significant places in their hometowns to help keep the sites functioning.

So far, Calico Bluffs has furnished the coal house with an antique pie safe, a dresser, a period-appropriate bed, and a table and chairs. Soon a wood-burning, iron cookstove will be added to the mix.

After the work is completed, Sanders said, Calico Bluffs will continue to work with the museum to help set up displays and programs highlighting historic periods and pieces from the 1840s through the 1940s. Earlier this year, the chapter helped with a display of vintage washing machines, bins, washboards and clothing that date as far back as the Civil War.

The next fundraiser for the project has not been finalized but will likely be held in March or April. Donations are being accepted in the meantime, and those interested in donating may call Dot Sanders at (870) 368-3637 for more information.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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