Historical Society plans to move museum to the former Gardner Museum in Quincy

Posted: Aug. 28, 2014 9:36 pm Updated: Sep. 11, 2014 10:15 pm
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

The Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County will relocate its History Museum to the former Gardner Museum of Architecture and Design in downtown Quincy.

The society's board of directors unanimously agreed to the move Thursday night as a way to showcase local historical artifacts from its collection, new exhibits, and architectural items from the former Gardner Museum.

Historical Society Executive Director Beth House Lane said plans call for having "a presence" at the building at Fourth and Maine by sometime in October.

"We hope to be open with some exhibits and put some of the gift shop down there," Lane said. "We're looking forward very much to cooperating with The District and being part of the downtown."

The society has overseen the Gardner Museum since it closed in March 2012, and the future of the building has been an ongoing concern.

"We want people to see right away that the building is going to be used and will mean something to the community -- and the quicker, the better," board President Chuck Radel said. "Being able to use it for the History Museum gives us some opportunities and answers what the public wanted as far as retaining a public space. It's a win for the community and a win for the historical society."

Radel said the move of the History Museum from its current location next to the Gov. John Wood Mansion at 12th and State will give the society an appropriate facility for its museum exhibits in a building with historic and architectural significance.

"Now we're using the Parsonage, which as the name implies was a former parsonage, a home," he said. "From my perspective, we have bed and bathroom galleries now, but down there we'll have a structure that offers opportunities to have professional museum-quality exhibits."

Lane said the Gardner Museum site will provide more space for the society's exhibits and programs, as well as much-needed additional storage space.

"It makes us more accessible to the general public and also easier for visitors to find us," she said. "We have really wonderful things that just will be so much better showcased in a larger space. It's not like we're adding another museum. We're taking the best of both worlds and making it better."

The research library and offices of the society will remain at the 425 S. 12th campus, which also includes the Lincoln Gallery and the 1835 Log Cabin.

A special committee appointed to oversee the building's future hosted a public hearing in June to discuss alternative uses for the Romanesque Revival-style Gardner building, which was built in 1888 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Some of the suggestions offered at the hearing included creating a Civil War museum, pursuing a public-private partnership that would create office space while maintaining gallery space, and operating the museum from an endowment.

The Historical Society also has been seeking proposals for the building, which served as the Quincy Public Library until 1974, when the library moved to its current location at Sixth and Jersey. It was then sold for $56,000 to the Gardner Quincy Adams County Museum, a corporation led by members of the Gardner family. The family subsequently opened a museum celebrating the city's architectural heritage.

The Historical Society has been spending about $1,000 a month to maintain the building.

While financing the Gardner Museum site remains a concern, "we really feel the opportunities to increase our presence and open up our programs more than offsets the cost of doing business down there," Lane said. "It's a far different thing to maintain a structure that isn't being used."

A portion of the Gardner building might be leased in the future to other compatible organizations to provide additional long-term financial support.

The future of the Parsonage has not been decided, Radel said.