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Construction of an expanded museum is underway in Mount Horeb after donors met the challenge of an anonymous benefactor.

The Mount Horeb Area Historical Society broke ground earlier this month on an addition to its existing 4,500-square-foot museum at 100 S. Second St. that will encompass three-quarters of a block when it’s completed.

The expanded museum will be called the “Driftless Historium,” and will celebrate the history of Mount Horeb and the entire Driftless Area. Plans call for the facility to be more of a public gathering point than a traditional museum. It will be complete with programming space, expanded research space, a kitchen and an old-fashioned ice cream counter.

With $850,000 in capital donations in-hand by January, an anonymous philanthropist pledged to fund the remainder of the $1.7 million project if other donors could pony up at least $300,000 to cover the facility’s first two years of expenses.

The Driftless Historium received $345,000 in donations as a result of the challenge, according to historical society officials.

Talk of a heritage center began in 2005 when the group launched a fundraiser to purchase and demolish the dilapidated former Mount Horeb House. The 1882 structure served as an inn for railroad users until it was converted into apartments during the 1930s.

The project’s centerpiece will be a corner building that will replicate the look of the Mount Horeb House. It will be adjoined to the existing museum by a new building on the site of the former Troll Inn, which the historical society purchased with $200,000 from another donor.

Together, the three parcels will show off more of the society’s collection, provide a permanent home for the society’s archives, and increase educational opportunities about the area’s history.

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