"We wouldn't exhibit it just the way it is now. It needs some work," said Susan McLeod, Chippewa Valley Museum Director.
Thursday was moving day for a popular pagoda on it's way to the Chippewa Valley Museum.
"Since the 1950's on Highway 53, it's been an icon, a landmark. You knew you were in Eau Claire when you went by the pagoda," explained McLeod.
Volunteers worked with area businesses to save the structure on top of the old Woo's Chinese Restaurant, a place organizer Dick Hajek visited frequently when he came to Eau Claire in 1981.
"I remember Jimmy Woo's because being a bachelor, I probably spent six, eight, ten days every month at Jimmy Woo's eating dinner," said Dick Hajek, who organized the pagoda move.
The move itself went well.
"It had the steel frames on the inside. And it was mounted on "L" frames up on the roof. So when I was talking to the crane company with their expertise, we knew that we could lift it off just like a bird cage," Hajek said.
With its top off to the side, the pagoda was gently laid on a truck bed so that it wouldn't snag street signs during the move.
"That was probably the most anxious moment, because it's been there since 1951. It was, "Would the wood take the stress against the twist on the steel when we set it down? But luckily for us, it was well constructed," Hajek explained.
After a trip down Hastings Way, with a police escort for the slow moving, oversized load, the pagoda was placed next to a slightly larger Eau Claire landmark while the museum considers the next step.
"What we try to do is preserve as opposed to restore. Because something that's sixty five years old doesn't look brand new. We would respect it's age, but in preservation you try to stop further deterioration. And so it would look nice by the time we're exhibiting it. But we won't replace every board," McLeod added.
And someday, the moving process will start up again all over.
"That's always a challenge, but in this case, we could at least get this far, so we're happy about that," said McLeod.
The big move was done entirely by volunteers and with donated equipment. The Chippewa Valley Museum says the pagoda will move to their Carson Park location within two years as part of an exterior renovation.**************************************
The former Woo’s Chinese restaurant will be demolished by the end of May to make way for new construction. The current owner offered the pagoda as a gift to CVM if removal could be arranged. CVM Director Susan McLeod said, “We could not know if the move was possible until we tried. The wooden pagoda was built over a steel structure that proved to be in good condition. Some of the wooden parts show damage but can be repaired as has been done a number of times in the past.”
The pagoda is currently in a temporary storage location. The pagoda is estimated to be about 20’ high and is too big to be in the museum in Carson Park. However, CVM is planning for a future façade/entrance renovation that includes an outdoor seating area, where there could be a place for the structure.
Volunteers and area businesses are contributing in-kind nearly everything needed to attempt the move. Contributors to date include: Dick Hajek: team leader; Cutting Edge: transport; PV Farmer: equipment; SignArt: salvage of neon lighting, equipment; Market & Johnson: cribbing to hold the pagoda as it traveled; Eau Claire Police Department: escort. Wayne Peters, Jack Kaiser, Duane Dingmann, and Haas Sons Construction provided additional services. Donors supporting remaining expenses of the move: Charter Bank, Janet Dykema Seymour. Thanks also to the many residents who have shared their pagoda stories so far, and their concern for its future.****************************************************