Steve Mueller has an easy facility in recalling the important early moments of Hermann history.
Mueller is part of Historic Hermann, Inc., a local organization dedicated to preserving the former German school, now museum, at Third and Schiller streets. He and the cadre of other volunteers now face a daunting prospect: an idleness now that the museum will have to remain closed because of the uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus. Current thinking calls for delaying the opening until further notice.
"A lot of Hermann people haven't been in the building," Mueller said, who serves as a docent there. "We're going to re-evaluate (the opening date)."
Historic Hermann members held their annual meeting on March 8, learning that the museum drew 3.192 visitors for 2019, which is a slight drop from the previous year. Guests from the U.S. came from all but the four states of Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. There were also those who made the trip from afar last year, including 31 from Germany itself.
Volunteers who participated in the restoration and maintenance of the famed clock tower, now in its 130th year of bell ringing for the community, were recognized at the meeting.
"The project could have reached over $100,000 in cost, but with their devotion, the project stayed well under $50,000," said President Corey Orr.
Yet the virus is dominating the plans made by Historic Hermann for the building's use in 2020.
"I am sorry to say we have lost three to cancellation and one is on hold right now," said Betty Hartbauer, the organization's group tour coordinator. "We have had a couple of senior tour groups that have cancelled, and we are hopeful they will reschedule at a later date. Right now we have groups scheduled for April, May, June, and December…not many, but hopefully they will stick. The groups are important for us to support our endeavors and upkeep."
Mueller said it's typical for the former school, one of Hermann's major tourist assets, to draw from 4,000 to 5,000 people annually. Greyhound buses are a familiar sight.
"We still get quite a few bus tours," he said, adding the museum embodies the legacy of German migration to the Hermann area during the 19th century.