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A warehouse for antiquities

Monday, May 1, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:39 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

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Construction workers Brad Welch, left, Kent Hager and Brian Schulte hang sheetrock last month inside a warehouse being built at Rock Bridge State Park. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is building the warehouse to store Native American artifacts and relics. (ADRIANNE BONAFEDE/ Missourian)

Wonder why there’s a new building going up at the entrance to Rock Bridge Memorial State Park?

At first glance, the structure appears to be a crude skeleton of a large, wooden house with no rooms. But it won’t remain that way for long.

What the heck is it? By early summer, the building will be transformed into a brick warehouse storing thousands of Native American relics from all over Missouri. Construction crews have been working steadily since February to erect the 4,500-square-foot structure. On a hot, sunny April afternoon, some workers hung sheetrock as others stapled and nailed felt backing.

Why is it necessary? The Missouri Department of Transportation needs a new warehouse for artifacts that are unearthed during road projects. Law prohibits the state from discarding the artifacts, but there is no space for storage in Jefferson City.

Kathryn DiFoxfire of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park said the park was originally given the land through the Soil and Water Conservation Fund, but it’s supposed to be used only for recreation purposes. As a result, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park will add an acre of recreational land somewhere else in the state park system.

Sue Holst, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said the site was chosen because it’s in central Missouri and close to Jefferson City, where the highway department has its headquarters.

Will the warehouse be accessible? No, the public will not be allowed to visit the warehouse. DiFoxfire said that’s no big deal because the artifacts that will be stored there will be nothing more than pieces of bone or shards of pottery. Despite their relatively mundane nature, both the highway department and the DNR have historical preservation missions that require them to save the artifacts. Any artifacts interesting enough to warrant public attention are stored in museums.

Where exactly is the warehouse? It’s at the former site of the park’s playground, which is near the west entrance to the park. The warehouse will be visible from Missouri 163. DiFoxfire said the playground will be moved a few hundred feet to make room for the building. Eventually, and in conjunction with the development of a Discovery Center at the park, the entrances will be relocated. “The MoDOT building will be the last building (one) sees,” she said.

How much will it cost? Holst said it will cost $362,800; the highway agency will pick up the tab.


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