WASHBURN - Construction is well under way on a spacious addition to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center near here. When finished, the expansion will add 9,000 square feet to the existing 11,000-square-foot facility.
Wendy Spencer, vice president of the Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation, said an events center is an important part of the expansion.
"We'll be able to hold 175 people in it," said Spencer. "It will have tall ceilings, large windows and will be absolutely beautiful."
This view of the east side of the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center at Washburn shows the extent of new construction under way at the back of the building. The addition will nearly double the size of the facility.
The addition will not be visible from the front entry of the Interpretive Center, creating a situation where visitors who enter the center will likely be surprised at the amount of floor space once they step inside the building.
In addition to the events center, the expansion will allow more room for displays and archives. It will also allow for the public to have much better access to items previously committed to storage.
"We'll have additional gallery space and a research library," explained Spencer. "We have been collecting books and acquiring them for the past 15 years. We do have quite a collection, a lot of it Lewis and Clark related. Many are from the early 1900s or older, all sorts of things from donors."
The archives have been kept in the basement of the existing facility. The basement is being expanded during construction, meaning the building will have added archive space. It will also be temperature controlled, necessary for the preservation of historic items.
According to Spencer, the Interpretive Center has not had sufficient space to properly display temporary exhibits. Hosting speakers and various informational programs has also been limited due to lack of space.
"Now we'll have that space and be able to do that," said Spencer. "The Foundation can do events on site, rather than in Bismarck. First and foremost though, is programming."
The number of visits to the center has steadily been on the increase. Traffic on U.S. Highway 83, which passes in front of the center, provides a continual influx of visitors interested in both the Interpretive Center and the nearby replica of Fort Mandan. If all goes as planned, current construction should be completed early next year.
"We're hoping for the end of April," said Spencer. "The concrete took longer than expected with our grade and slope. We are starting to enclose the building. In the next month or so it will look a lot better."
Once enclosed, work will begin on the interior. The addition has been planned so that it ties in nicely with the current building.
"The finish on the inside will very much match what we've got now. It will blend," said Spencer.
It is expected that traffic will flow nicely from the current building into the addition. So much so that most will not be able to ascertain where the new building begins and where the old one ends. The exterior will also be very similar to what exists now, a notable exception being the view of the nearby Missouri River valley.
"All the windows will be on the back side of the building," reminded Spencer. "It's an absolutely gorgeous view."