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Tunica blues museum progressing

TUNICA — The second phase of a blues museum project will begin within two weeks when a train depot built in the 1800s is moved about 13 miles from Dundee to Tunica.

The depot will be moved to the site of the Tunica Convention and Visitors Center on U.S. 61, and construction is slated to begin in the spring or early summer on the $2 million Gateway to the Blues Visitor Center and Museum, according to the Commercial Appeal.

The rustic depot will become the new visitor center and entrance to the blues museum, and is part of Tunica’s effort to give visitors a sense that they are in the birthplace of the blues.

“The culture and heritage of the Delta is something we need to be marketing,” said Webster Franklin, president and CEO of the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The first phase of the project, which is now complete, was preparing the site.

The 1,250-square-foot Illinois Central Railroad train depot was donated by Son and Janet Hood of Dundee, Franklin said.

The train depot will house the visitor center and the museum gift shop. From the depot, visitors can head to the 4,000-square-foot blues museum that will be built behind the depot.

Franklin said planning for the new visitor center and blues museum began two years ago when he asked Harrah’s Casino for its $350,000 blues collection.

Grant funds totaling $1.9 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Mississippi Department of Transportation will pay for the Gateway to the Blues project.

The Tunica County Board of Supervisors and the visitors bureau are also helping to fund the project, Franklin said.

Scott Blake, a museum designer-master planner with Design 500 in Memphis, has been hired to design all phases of the project.

Blake said the porch of the train depot will be used as a stage for blues concerts.

The museum and visitor center are slated to open in the fall of 2011.

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