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Havre tourist attraction plans an expansion

Havre Beneath the Streets is seeking donations to fund a new display for the tour, and if the group raises enough money, to reopen some underground passages that will change the path the tour takes.

Organizers have divided the project into three phases, and the speed of their completion will depend on the level of support from the community, said Frank DeRosa, chairman of the Havre Beneath the Streets board of directors.

The first part of the project is the addition of a new display to the underground tour - the re-creation of an old-fashioned newspaper operation, complete with printing press, DeRosa said.

The display will become the final one of the tour, and will be located next to a huge model railroad being constructed by a local model railroad club in the basement of the Havre Railroad Museum.

The newspaper display - which would be the tour's 17th exhibit - will be placed directly beneath the sidewalk in front of the Havre Railroad Museum on Third Avenue. The space was once an underground vault, but has since been filled with dirt. Havre Beneath the Streets plans to remove the dirt and restore the vault in order to make room for the new display, DeRosa said, adding that doing so will likely cost tens of thousands of dollars.

"It's going to be costly," he said.

Organizers hope to start work on the first phase of the project this fall, he added.

The second part of the project will be to reopen a passageway beneath the alley immediately north of the first project, and the third stage will be to reopen a vault beneath the sidewalk on the west side of Third Avenue in front of Norman's Ranch and Sportswear, just north of the alley, DeRosa said.

"We decided that we're going to break it up into increments" because it is unlikely that Havre Beneath the Streets will raise enough money to complete all of the phases at once, DeRosa said.

Once the passageways are reopened, they will connect the newspaper display to the rest of the underground tour. Until they are, the display will not be connected to the other exhibits, and will have to be shown separately.

Once the entire project is finished, the tour will end in the basement of the Havre Railroad Museum midway along Third Avenue between First and Second streets. Now, the tour ends under the corner of First Street and Third Avenue kitty-corner from Master Sports.

Meanwhile, a group of model railroad enthusiasts called the Pacific Junction Railroad Club is building a new railroad in the basement that will be three times larger than the railroad on the first floor of the railroad museum. The model will occupy the entire basement.

The group created a fictional line - Pacific Junction Railroad - and designed a logo and paint scheme for the trains, which will run along thousands of feet of track.

That project is being funded by the club and is not part of the Havre Beneath the Streets fund-raising effort.

The cost of completing the new newspaper exhibit and opening the underground passageways far exceeds the tourist attraction's limited budget, DeRosa said, meaning it has been forced to seek donations from the public.

It is the first time in the 10-year history of Havre Beneath the Streets that it has done so, he added.

"We're letting people know that we need money to do this," DeRosa said. "We've never asked for money. We've done everything with volunteers so far, but without help, this thing won't get done."

On April 29, Havre Beneath the Streets will have an open house to help raise money. Many tours will be given throughout the day, and will include special tour guides, DeRosa said.

"High school kids will be dressed up in vintage clothes," he said. "The students will be acting like a mannequin and will come to life and talk about the display."

DeRosa said he is not sure how many people to expect during the open house, but hopes for a strong turnout.

"We'll do whatever we can," DeRosa said. "If we get too many, we might have to extend it by a day or two. We may have to stay open later in the evening. We'll just play by ear."

Anyone interested in donating to the project for Havre Beneath the Streets is encouraged to visit the railroad museum at 120 Third Ave. or call 265-8888.


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