Denton County

1 Year After Fire, Denton County Museum Reopens

A fire burned in Downtown Denton on Dec. 26, 2017

When fire swept through Denton's square last winter, it leveled the Downtown Mini Mall, and shut down three neighboring businesses. Smoke from that fire also closed Denton County's Courthouse on the Square Museum.

Tuesday, More than one year later, the museum reopened.

Later this year, the museum will mark its 40-year anniversary. Inside is a collection of Denton County history.

"I think people are curious about their past," museum director Peggy Riddle said. "We're all curious about where we came from, and this is a way to satisfy that curiosity."

That’s why folks come here. Not only to browse historic artifacts, but also to research genealogy.

"We want to represent all of the community," curator of exhibits Matthew Long said. "To let people see themselves, but also discover new things about their past."

On the morning of Dec. 26, 2017, fire broke out in a longtime Denton business, the Downtown Mini Mall. The courthouse is located across the street from where the fire occurred. But the smoke and soot from the fire entered the courthouse, covering most of the 1 million museum artifacts.

"It was devastating," Riddle said. "The direction of the wind, it just blew directly into this building."

The site of the Downtown Mini Mall remains vacant. Three nearby businesses closed. One of them, Jupiter House coffee shop, is slated to reopen early this year.

Because of the fire, the museum also closed. All of the items were removed and taken to multiple conservators for cleaning. Crews spent weeks inside the entire courthouse building, scrubbing away soot and removing the smell of smoke.

"Our main gallery here is our largest area," Long said. "And it was basically used as a work zone for the past year."

A year and a week after the fire, the museum reopened Tuesday during Denton County's swearing-in ceremony for elected officials. It will resume full hours of operation on Wednesday.

"We're excited," Riddle said. "We want everybody to come and visit."

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