Barely 24 hours after greeting his newborn daughter, Nat Adams attended a birth of another sort: the opening of Coeur d’Alene’s long-awaited cultural center.
“It’s been a full weekend,” chuckled Adams, president of the cultural center’s board.
More than 100 people turned out Sunday afternoon for the opening of the center, an event many people thought would never happen. It took seven years and $250,000 to convert the weathered brick building to a showplace for art, craftwork, performances and science workshops.
“It’s been a long haul, but it’s worth it,” said cultural center board member Sue Sausser. “We’re not finished yet, but we are in the building, with lights that go on and toilets that flush.”
“A lot of people were skeptical that it could be done,” said Adams. “We wanted to get the doors open.”
Potters, painters, woodworkers and other artists sold their works in the center Sunday, as musicians and dancers performed at the nearby Rotary bandshell in City Park.
The building at 414 Mullan Ave. is owned by the city, which leases the land from Burlington Northern Railroad. It will be rented out for art classes, holiday bazaars, craft festivals, receptions and recitals.
Built in 1904 as a coal-fired power station for the Interurban Electric Railway, the building languished for decades. When the cultural center committee took over the vacant building, it was filled with construction debris and scrap from a brewery.
“This was just chock-full of wires and batteries and junk,” said Coeur d’Alene Mayor Al Hassell, looking around the building.
Workers replaced the roof, painted the walls, replaced the hole-ridden concrete floor. Volunteers donated plumbing, electrical work, a security system. More than 500 people spent $35 to put their names on bricks around the center’s entrance.
There is much left to do. Pipes in the foyer await a water fountain. Lights need to be installed. The center is $25,000 in debt, Adams said. One room in the building is full of insulation, paint, cement and lumber. In a corner sits a stack of paintings on plywood. Those paintings - depicting artists, a ballet dancer, and others - were hung in the windows of the center to show citizens what the old building could become.
Although the building is open, the paintings won’t be thrown out, Sausser said. They’ll be cut up to make shelves and bookcases.
“We don’t throw anything away,” she said.
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