A $5,000 grant means the South Custer County Historical Society has enough money to begin fixing the interior of Mackay’s 120-year-old cigar store, society board member Earl Lockie said.
The Idaho Heritage Trust Foundation grant will pay to fix the store’s dilapidated floor and ceiling. Work is planned to begin this spring.
“We haven’t been doing much the last month, it’s been too damn cold,” Lockie said last week.
Lost Rivers Museum Curator and historical society member Mick Hoover said the restoration project began in March 2018. The historical society purchased the building to save it from bulldozers. The building had been condemned after several years of disuse and a fire that destroyed the back of the long-vacant store.
“It’ll probably be March of next year when we have the interior done,” Lockie said, laughing.
The historical society members said the project will help preserve Mackay’s history. Since the structure was built more than a century ago, it has housed pool tables and illegal moonshine, served as the publishing house for the local paper, The Mackay Miner, and displayed cigars and handmade jewelry.
“There’s got to be five or six layers of wallpaper in here,” Hoover said, which help indicate the building’s various uses..
Once the interior is finished, Lockie said the plan is to turn the cigar store into an extension of the Lost Rivers Museum. He and other society members will set up displays portraying the history of the store, and by extension the history of Mackay.
Hoover said there are displays museum volunteers have in storage that don’t fit in the packed museum that would look good in the cigar store.
According to Lockie, the historical society has put $20,000 into the project. All the labor was donated, but the society members had to pay for the property and materials.
The previous owner, who lives in Nevada, was originally fine with the city destroying the property. However, he decided to sell it to Lockie and the historical society once he heard what their intentions were, according to Lockie. The owner was able to provide the original windows he had taken off the building.
“Luckily he agreed to give the windows back,” Hoover said after explaining groups’ desire to use as much original material as possible. “I had to drive to Henderson, Nevada, to pick them up, but it was worth it.”
Although it will be a few years before the cigar store is ready to be called a museum, Lockie said the renovations are on track. Members of the historical society knew the project would be a long and arduous journey to complete, but the end result will be worth it.