MONTPELIER, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - The Butch Cassidy Museum in Montpelier is the last standing bank the infamous outlaw robbed. Since its restoration three years ago, it has grown in popularity.
“We opened this as a curiosity and we are open just 100 days from Memorial Day to Labor Day," said Radek Konarik, the owner of the museum. However, during those 100 days, we start seeing a lot of people. We start counting the people and we got through the door approximately somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 people.”
Because of that growth, the museum is expanding and it has some new additions.
Konarik said it always has new treasures coming in that people find. The bank has several original bank notes from the Bank of Montpelier, dating from the 1800s through the early 1900s. He said a couple of people found them hidden away in their things and later donated them to the museum.
The most recent addition to the museum is an old gun.
The gun was found back in 1999-2000 during sewer excavation work of the building. The previous building owner had hung on to it and last week, donated it to the museum.
“The thing is we don’t know a lot about the gun yet because it’s so new," Konarik said. "We have no idea if this is a gun from 1800s, we don’t know if it’s 1900s.”
He said it isn't likely it has any connection to Butch Cassidy or his gang, but it could still be close that era. He said whatever the gun's story is, it still adds to the history of the Bank of Montpelier itself and the fact that it is the original site and building.
The museum is working to authenticate the gun and try and find out more about it. Konarik said he is talking to several gunsmiths, wild west experts and others to try and get more details about the gun. He said if anyone might have knowledge about it or might know something, reach out to the museum.
Another recent addition since the last Butch Cassidy Days, is the original bank vault.
“This bank door was buried in a basement for over 100 years," Konarik described. "Where we are standing, it was an old bank which was closed in 1910. In 1910, the guy move everything out of here into a bigger and better building across the street, which is Zion Bank today. And we work out a deal with them and Zion Bank donated this vault to us so we can display this to the public.”
That's not all that's changed in recent months at the museum.
One of the back rooms, which was used for storage, has now been made into another room of the museum - where an 1800s jail has been added to add to the historical experience of the museum. Konarik bought the jail from SLC from a woman selling her family's old West belongings, including the pieces for the jail. Konarik said it's built to size and scale of what a jail would be like in the 1800s. He said it's a fun addition and makes for some fun photo opps for families who visit.
But Konarik said the expansion is still not done, there's more to come down the road.
One thing he's working on for next year, is a history story wall.
"It will look like time watch - down the road," Konarik described his ideas. "And every second of the time watch will be a year of Butch Cassidy’s life. We’ll leave 1/4 of the time watch empty because we really don’t know what happened to him after 1908. There are stories but we really don't know any more after that year.
The wall is just drawings and sketches right now, but soon it will be digitized for people to see Cassidy's story. The other wall will feature the history of the Bear Lake area.
Konarik said the other expansions will come as time and money allow. Konarik funds everything with the museum out of pocket, with a few donations people make to the museum here and there. But the expensive bulk of adding to the museum and upkeep is Konarik's personal expense.
He said it's a time-consuming and costly hobby, but he loves it and he just wants to preserve an important piece of history.
He also added that his self-called crazy idea to do the museum has been so successful that it has led him to another crazy idea. He said he would like to bring Paris, France to Paris, Idaho.
He wants to build a Paris complex, with an Eiffel Tower model, shops, restaurants, a zipline and more. He believes it could help boost the local economy and draw in even more tourism for the area.
"This is a very frequented place by the tourists because it’s Bear Lake," he said. "This is a main track to the Yellowstone. There’s like a million people driving on this road. So it would be great adventure, a boost to the economy here and a good money maker for Bear Lake.”
He said he needs a business partner who could help with the cost to do it, so it's just an idea at this point but it is something he'd like to look at for the future.
The new additions and features of the museum will be on display for Butch Cassidy Days on Aug. 11 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. There will be cook-offs, beer gardens, and more. And at 3:00 p.m., there will be a bank robbery reenactment.
More information about the bank can be found on its Facebook page.