By Daniel Burgess
Clifton and Nadene Irick had a vision that their building in downtown Pilot Point would one day become a showcase for the city’s history.
With help from friend and local history buff Jay Melugin, the city of Pilot Point and the Denton County Office of History and Culture, their vision has become a reality.
Selected guests visited the new Clifton and Nadene Irick Museum Monday to preview its first exhibit. The museum, located at the corner of Liberty and Jefferson streets on The Square, will be open to the public Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Nadene Irick, who was the first to arrive at Monday’s event, said the final result is beyond her expectations. Melugin gave her a tour of the museum.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I’m way surprised how much everybody’s done. [Clifton] would be amazed at how nice it is.”
Clifton Irick, himself an expert on Pilot Point history, died on July 31, 2014, at the age of 94.
Inside the museum, large prints of old photographs line the walls, accompanied by descriptions of the history they depict. An old tractor is front and center, and a photo of the Iricks hangs high on the rear wall.
Not all of the artifacts collected by Melugin and the Iricks are on display just yet.
“You have to start somewhere, so we started kind of simple,” said Melugin, who holds the title of city historian. “But we were in a hurry to get it open. We wanted to get it open to the public as soon as possible.
“We don’t want to put everything out at once; it would look too cluttered. It would look like Jay’s Café, and we don’t want it to look like that!”
Melugin displayed the historical artifacts he collected over a period of two decades at his café, which was located on the north side of The Square until it was destroyed by a fire in January 2013. His collection was recently donated to the Denton County Office of History and Culture, which is working with the city on the museum project.
The museum’s opening marks the culmination of 20 years of work that started with conversations between Melugin and Clifton Irick, who owned the building with his wife before donating it to the city.
“We had the hopes that it would be made into a museum someday. [Irick] didn’t live long enough to see that happen, but at least Nadene gets to see it,” Melugin said.
Melugin said he was inspired by Irick’s passion for the city and began collecting artifacts. He received Irick’s historical items after he died in 2014. Melugin also chairs a city committee that planned the museum and helped organize the first exhibit.
“Clifton and I talked about this for 20 years how we really wanted to do this. And I’ve been working toward getting it accomplished for at least the last 10 years with the city,” Melugin said.
“Next Saturday it will become a reality. I’m very, very pleased and excited about that.”
Collecting the artifacts was a first and vital step, but participation from the city and county was instrumental in executing the project. The city completed renovation of the building in the fall of last year, and the county history office provided the expertise on how to preserve items and build displays.
“We were very lucky to have Denton County supply us with these large, blown up photographs because those are quite expensive,” Melugin said. “They’ve come a long way with helping us.”
The first exhibit focuses in on four themes: local schools, the city’s publishing industry, local churches and Rest Cottage, a home for unwed mothers operated by the Church of the Nazarene.
“Those four things are what we’re concentrating on. They sort of have to do with the historical markers,” Melugin said.