North Texas

Historic Denton County Museum Could Stay Closed For Up to a Year

A four-alarm fire which destroyed a downtown Denton business last week continues to have an impact on a Denton County government building right across the street.

The fire, which broke out at the Downtown Mini Mall, send smoke and soot drifting into several nearby businesses. It also forced county commissioners to close the courthouse on Denton's square. Hardest hit in that building, the county's museum, whose artifacts suffered soot damage.

The museum has been around for more than thirty years, located on the first floor of the courthouse. It contains a complete history of the North Texas county.

"We discover something new about Denton County every day, it seems like," said museum director Peggy Riddle.

Thousands of artifacts are usually on display in the county museum, or in archive rooms around it. But the museum is now empty, it's contents removed so they can be cleaned. Many were covered in soot, and will need to be shipped off to conservators for cleaning.

Security cameras inside the courthouse captured images of the smoke rolling into the building on the early morning of December 26. Riddle was returning to Denton from an out of town trip for Christmas.

"It was devastating to see it," she said of the smoky camera footage. "It was really eerie, almost like a sci-fi movie or something."

Crews have worked around-the-clock since the day the fire broke out, airing the smoky odor from the courthouse, and cleaning all three floors of the building. After the fire, Denton County government operations usually conducted out of the building, including county Commissioners Court, were moved to other locations. Government operations are expected to resume at the courthouse on Monday, said Mary Horn, Denton County Judge.

There is no dollar figure yet for the museum's damaged content, though Riddle says the property is insured. But she says it will be costly. And restoring the artifacts could take up to a year.

"This will put us out of commission for a while," she said. "We're not really sure how long the process will take."

Contact Us