Gardner Museum donated to Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County

The Gardner Museum of Architecture and Design at Fourth and Maine will close next week. The Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County will maintain the facility while a committee studies options for its future. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: Mar. 9, 2012 10:46 pm Updated: Mar. 24, 2012 12:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writers

The Gardner Museum of Architecture and Design is scheduled to close next week and be turned over to the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County.

The Historical Society is creating a blue-ribbon committee to determine whether there is adequate support to reopen the museum or pursue some other use for the historic building on the southwest corner of Fourth and Maine.

"Our challenge in recent years has been diminishing resources, which will no longer sustain us in our mission," Museum Board Chairman Richard Walz said.

Funding from the Gardner Museum's primary benefactor for 35 years, the J.W. Gardner II Foundation, ceased in 2008. Beginning the next year, the museum operated on reserves, fundraisers and donations.

The museum used to have four full-time employees, but cuts reduced the number in recent years. Equipment purchases were postponed, and hours reduced.

Officials from the Gardner Museum and Historical Society have been meeting for several months to discuss the possible transfer of assets. The museum board's articles of incorporation require that the building be donated to a like-minded organization if the museum must cease operations.

Historical Society Board Chairman Chuck Radel said the group agreed Thursday night to accept the building and see if there is a way to keep operating the museum.

"The key is community support. The level of support will determine the extent to which we will be able to pursue the Gardner Museum's mission," Radel said.

Jim Mentesti, president of the Great River Economic Development Foundationn, has been selected to lead the blue-ribbon committee. Other members have not yet been named.

While the committee does its work, the building will be maintained but kept in limited use.

"We want the highest and best use of this property and the highest benefit for the community," said Reg Ankrom, executive director of the Historical Society.

In 1974, the Quincy Public Library vacated its old building at the corner of Fourth and Maine and relocated to a new building at 526 Jersey Street. At that time, John Willis Gardner III bought the Maine Street property, with the intention of establishing an architectural museum. After adaptive reuse of the interior, the museum opened in 1977.

The Gardner Museum is a stone Romanesque Revival style building erected in 1888. It was designed by the Chicago architectural firm of

Patton and Fisher and built with limestone supplied by the Frederick W. Menke Stone Works of Quincy. A stucco addition, designed by Quincy architect Ernest Wood, was added to the back of the building in 1929.

The Gardner Museum is a full two stories with a circular corner tower that rises to three stories and features views of nearby Washington Park, as well as of the Mississippi River and into Missouri. Ornamental iron railings and supports are intact at the entrance. The interior features butternut woodwork throughout and a handsome staircase with an ornately carved baluster. The second floor has a large room, formerly the library reading room, with a tongue and groove wood vaulted ceiling.

In addition to exhibits, the museum also has sponsored walking tours in Quincy and tours of Woodland Cemetery.

The Historical Society was founded in 1896 and maintains the Gov. John Wood Mansion, History Museum and Lincoln Gallery. It provides historical and genealogical research and archival services at its campus at 425 S. 12th St. in Quincy.