Hungarian Settlement Museum renovation moving along
ALBANY - The Hungarian Settlement Museum near Albany in Livingston Parish will get a large chunk of money to continue renovations of an old school building.
Right now, Alex and Royanne Kropog's house stores some items that detail the history of the Hungarian Settlement between Springfield and Albany. The couple has books, documents and pictures from the early 1900s along with some clothes, costumes and kitchen items from the settlement. One day, the items will be on display inside the historic school building on located on Highway 43 near Interstate 12.
"We're going to be able to preserve and display all of the things that people have that has meant something to this Hungarian Settlement," said museum curator, Royanne Kropog. "There will be items that will be in the museum that the people actually used."
In 1907, the school building was built in Springfield and was cut into three sections 20 years later before being moved toward Albany. The building was then a nursing home from 1944 to 1976. In 2000, the Hungarian Settlement Society secured a lease for 50 years from the Livingston Parish School Board for $1. Then organizers of the museum tried to find money to renovate the building.
"We really have to work hard to make the money, so getting this grant is very gratifying to all of us," said Alex Kropog.
Recently, the State Bond Commission approved a $175,000 grant for the museum. That money will go toward renovating two rooms in the back of the school building. The front and side rooms are already finished after grant money obtained from the state in 2012. Plans also call for a new parking lot and fresh paint on the building's exterior.
"Well it's almost unbelievable, because five years ago when you came into this room right behind me you saw a big pile of old lumber and junk and trash all stacked up," said Alex Kropog. "We had to walk around it. There was a hole or two in the floor, so we've come a long way."
In the early 1900s, Hungarians immigrated to Livingston Parish for the acres of untouched pine forest. Many settlers worked in a sawmill or farmed strawberries. At its peak, the Hungarian Settlement had about 350 families. Now the museum organizers hope to display the past to give tourists a history lesson.
"We're going to have a big bash that day, a grand opening. Being the curator and all, I want to have everything looking all spiffy and clean and sharp and pretty," said Royanne Kropog.
The Kropog's say the museum should be open by the end of next year if everything goes as planned.