The Patee House Museum recently got its first passenger-only elevator. The previous freight elevator was not suited for people and now all floors open to visitors are accessible.

After years of raising funds and months of construction, the Patee House Museum recently finished a monumental task: the building got its first-ever passenger elevator.

The new elevators replaces a freight elevator built in 1905 when the building housed a shirt factory.

“We thought it was time to replace it,” said Museum Director Gary Chilcote.

Construction started in September 2017 and took longer than expected, Chilcote said.

“It took them 10 months to do it,” Chilcote said. “They had to widen the floors on all four floors in order to get the new shaft in and then they built it out of concrete blocks and up four stories so it was quite a job to get it in.”

The new elevator and all work involved ended up costing $416,000. The museum was able to raise a little over half that amount in private donations and a St. Joseph businessman donated the rest.

“No public funds were used in this,” Chilcote said.

The four-story building houses a variety of artifacts from different eras and locations on the first two stories, which are open to visitors. The third story is in the process of being turned into a hotel exhibit and the top floor serves as storage space.

Before the elevator construction, people unable to use stairs could only take a look at the ground-level exhibits. In addition to fulfilling ADA requirements, the elevator also helps museum staff.

“It’s a lot easier for us, we have been having to carry materials up to the third floor and now we can bring a lot up by elevator,” Chilcote said.

The museum staff is now concentrating on finishing the third floor, which is being restored to look like the hotel rooms the Patee House used to house. Chilcote said construction will likely take another six months.

Jessica Kopp can be reached at jessica.kopp@newspressnow.com or you can follow her on Twitter: @NPNOWKopp