Being one of the oldest buildings in Hot Springs, The Pioneer Museum offers a number of historical exhibits and items that guests can appreciate.
Wanda Aaberg, who has been the director of the museum for 14 years, has deep ties and investment into the area, like her great grandparents having homesteaded in the area in 1887.
“The building was built in the center of Hot Springs because the courthouse was on the north side and there’s on the South side of town and so they put it in the middle to kind of keep people happy. It was built in 1893. When it was built, it cost $23,500. It took a year to build – all electric, a water sewer. It had a coal fired steam heat furnace and when it opened there were 263 students, all 12 grades. And it was a school till 1961. It’s been a museum since 1962. At one time we had $0.28 on quarries in this area. That’s why you see so much sandstone in the buildings and they shipped it by rail all over the Midwest for other buildings.”
The Pioneer museum has three floors, 15 rooms and 25 displays for guests to enjoy and take them back in time. Some of the displays include the general store, original post office, doctor’s office and the history of the different hospitals in the town, like the West River Crippled Children’s Hospital.
“It was a polio hospital in the 1950s. In fact, we have one of the iron lungs from here, which is out in our shed from the West River Crippled Children Hospital. The kids came from all over the Midwest or the Western United States here because of the warm mineral water for polio victims,” Aaberg explains.
There is also a glass room, a tool room that has a range of equipment used on ranches, military room, school room, toy room and the first telephone switch board in Hot Springs. An entire room is also dedicated to the museum founder.
Aaberg says, “We have the Carol Goddard room. She helped form the Historical Society and she opened the Museum in 1962.”
Displays of the museum include vintage sewing machines, musical instrument and dentistry while there’s horse drawn farm equipment that was used on the Angostura Reservoir.
“Most the people who leave here walk down those stairs, go out the door and say, ‘this is the best museum they have ever been in’ – blown away by what we have, our collection,” Aaberg says.