Join Dungeon Party Friday |

Join Dungeon Party Friday

Welcome to the dungeon, one of Park City’s best loved landmarks and the holding cell where at least 11 people died of alcohol poisoning or exposure while in police custody. "It’s so unusual," mused Sandra Morrison, the director of the Park City Historical Society and Museum. "It gives visitors real insight into how people lived 100 years ago, especially people on the wrong side of the law."

What’s ironic, at least from a historian’s perspective, is that, today, people flock to get inside the dingy cells that prisoners once prayed to escape.

The dungeon has been off-limits to voyeurs since construction began on the museum’s $8 million project that is set to open in the spring of 2009.

While the dungeon will remain closed, the Dungeon Party, Friday at 5 p.m., will give patrons a chance to tour the museum construction site, mingle with other patrons and celebrate the start of winter at the Elks Lodge. People can buy museum memberships at the door for as little as $15.

Organizers need a few thousands of dollars to complete the museum’s expansion and depend on local support to preserve artifacts. When the museum closed its doors for renovation, about 90 percent of historic material remained locked in storage because of lack of space. When completed, the expanded museum will display items most residents have never seen, including a stagecoach from the 1870s, an Egyptian Theatre backdrop from the 1930s, a cage used to transport miners and ore, and five of the Silver Queen’s dresses. The dungeon has remained untouched expect for waterproofing and plaster reinforcement injected into its walls to shore it from collapse.

The project, almost singularly ambitious among ski towns in the West, will connect Park City Museum, historic City Hall, the fire tower and the old public library with indoor walkways and measure 12,000 square feet.

The museum will have a wealth of interactive exhibits. Visitors will be able to steal away on life-sized rail cars, drill into rock face and explore archival footage. "Everything will be new, except the antiques," Morrison said. "Our dual purpose is to educate people about Park City and preserve artifacts for the next generation."

‘History is what sets us apart’

The Dungeon Party, usually held in October, will celebrate the holidays with a Christmas ornament that renders the museum as it will look when construction is complete. The ornament, made by longtime board member Jan Massimino, is meant to represent the importance of history in Park City, says museum representative Julie Hopkins. "People just really love the historical society," she said. "Park City’s history is what sets us apart."

The ornament costs $25.

A range of patrons attend the Dungeon party every year. Some are visitors who want to find out more about the museum. Others are longtime residents. "We are all working with the museum because of our love for Park City," said Massimino, who co-chairs the party with Debbi Compton. "Everyone feels like this is our gift to the community."

The museum is a gift that locals appreciate, Massimino said. A handful of Park City resident started the museum two decades ago. Since then, the organization has grown into an important institution here, she added. "I’ve been on the board for years, sitting around a table, imaging what the museum would look like. It’s been amazing where we’ve come."

Info Box:

Highlights: Auction items, food, live music and hardhat tours of the museum’s construction site.

Where: Elks Lodge, 550 Main Street, upstairs

When: Friday, Dec. 12, from 5 until 7:30 p.m.

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