Incorporated in Colorado in 1977, the National Mining Hall of Fame raised and spent money on various projects, including the design of a building. It was to be built on some land owned by the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, on which the organization had an option for $5 million. To qualify for this option, the Hall of Fame had to have $150,000 in cash. And the estimated construction cost for the building was $12 million!
It was a bold venture but did not fit the reality of the times. The mining industry's economic downturn of the 1980s dried up potential contributors, and the Hall of Fame was facing hard times. Something had to be done.Stan Dempsey persuaded Dick Moolick to join the Board of Directors when Dick retired from Phelps Dodge in 1985.
A group of Directors saw the need for the Mining Hall of fame to acquire an existing building in a mining community somewhere, a permanent site for a landmark location. Constructing a new building was out of the question.
Proposals were requested, and we did get a few (mostly requiring large amounts of cash). Lead, South Dakota, made a generous offer, and Leadville came up with an interesting proposal - this building at a price tag of $2 million.
The Chairman, Doug Watrous, asked Dick to go up to Leadville and "negotiate" for the recently-vacated school building. Well, negotiate he did. After four hours, the deal was made with the school district officials: 50 cents a year for a 110 year lease! The County Commissioners then pledged two years of utilities worth about $35,000 per year.
Later on, we were able to expand and renovate our core building at an expense of $800,000. This generous funding came from the Economic Development Administration, the Mineral Impact Assistance Program of the State of Colorado, the State Historical Fund, the Colorado Historical Society, and in-kind help from Lake County and the City of Leadville.
And now we enter the 21st Century with the creation of the Hennebach Corridor and the Development of the Hennebach Wing, thanks to our "angel" Ralph Hennebach's gift of $100,100. Together with Dick Swayne's contribution of $50,000 on behalf of Boart Longyear, and Chuck Barber like Ralph, a former ASARCO Chairman and having strong ties to Leadville who donated $50,000.We also need to recognize Boart Longyear for an early-on contribution of $100,000 to the Endowment Fund, leading to the designation of this room as the E. J. Longyear Memorial Auditorium.