April 27, 2018
On Friday, April 27, 2018, Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center (KTM&HC) will announce its plans for one of the most significant developments in the Museum’s 52 years and reveal progress toward its transformation from a house museum to a regional history center. The Museum’s leadership will give invited guests a behind-the-scenes tour of its new Visitor Center at 152 Main Street, the property it acquired in 2016. The Museum will also announce the launch of the Cannonball Challenge, which is part of an ongoing capital campaign. Plans for the site’s expansion for 21st-century visitors will be on view.
Originally designed as a memorial library for the papers of renowned architect Cass Gilbert, the brick building is being transformed into KTM&HC’s new Visitor Center (artist rendering).
“Ridgefield’s Main Street is bookended by two exceptional cultural assets, each special in its own right,” says the campaign’s Honorary Chair, Nick Donofrio. “We’ve risen to the occasion in support of one—our new Ridgefield Library. Now it is time to join in support of our companion Main Street gem, Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center.”
KTM&HC is self-funded, with no local, state or federal operational support. The ongoing transformation is being financed by the capital campaign, named “It’s Our Turn to Make History!” The Cannonball Challenge will bring the campaign to its initial goal of $1.5 million. This will enable the Museum to complete many elements of its two-phase expansion project. Already, campaign gifts at the Leadership level have funded these elements of Phase I:
A New Visitor Center: When the Visitor Center opens mid-2018, visitors to the renovated brick building at 152 Main Street will enter its main-level lobby for admission, orientation, tours, refreshments and restrooms. Staff will have relocated to new offices upstairs. In Phase II, the Visitor Center’s lower level will be fitted with high-density storage and workroom space for the Museum’s archival collections, including its Hartman photographic glass plates.
A More Accessible, Expanded Campus: Easy and welcoming access from the new Visitor Center to the site’s full campus is now possible, thanks to openings in the stone wall that had previously separated 132 and 152 Main Street. The transformation includes new pathways, additional parking (including a handicapped space), and an outdoor assembly area where students and other museum visitors can begin their tours. Phase II will enable more effective use of the Cass Gilbert Carriage Barn and other physical and intellectual assets. Interactive tours that enhance docent storytelling with digital technologies will give visitors, including 2,000 students attending school programs each year, a new experience of the site’s 300-year history—and its relevance to today.
The Cannonball Challenge aims to raise a total of $50,000 from the general public, by December 31, 2018. All gifts up to $50,000 will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, by a generous local philanthropist, for a total of $100,000. Gifts of any amount are welcome.
Image: Originally designed as a memorial library for the papers of renowned architect Cass Gilbert, the brick building is being transformed into KTM&HC’s new Visitor Center (artist rendering).