Stuhr Raises $7 Million to Restore "Gem of the Prairie"


Restoring the shine to the "Gem of the Prairie", Stuhr Museum not only meets a big goal, but exceeds it.

The museum announced Thursday it raised $7,305,604 as part of a campaign to rejuvenate the Stuhr Building.

Foundation Director Pam Price said, "It was a huge weight off our shoulders. We're so tickled because many doubted we could raise $7 million and we blew past it. Feels great, credit to our community."

Price said that's especially impressive, because historical attractions can be a tough sell with donors.

She said donors give first to churches, youth organizations and social services.

"Usually cultural institutions are at the bottom of the list for nonprofit donations," she said. "But I think our community really values Stuhr Museum. We've been here since the 1960s, people in Hall County pay property tax dollars to support us."

The building was designed by Edward Durrell Stone, the famed architect behind Radio City Music Hall and the Kennedy Center.

They want to restore it to the way it was in 1967, along with a new roof and better climate control.

Museum Director Joe Black said that's important. He said, "The big thing is making sure the temperature and humidity swings don't go up and down."

They hope to take better care of visitors and artifacts. It means the building will be closed for more than a year, but the museum remains open, despite some confusion.

Price said, "I think people jumped to a conclusion when they heard the Stuhr Building was closing for the renovation, they thought the museum was closing. Not so. We're still at full programming, using other venues in the community."

The museum's Railroad Town and other venues remain open during construction. Some events will move downtown, to the Bartenbach Building, and others will move just across from the museum at College Park.

They'll knock out a few walls, but retain the key elements of the building. And since they raised more than anticipated, there's money for landscaping, and money to put into an endowment for upkeep.

Black said, "What it says to me is the community believes in what we're doing, invests in us, because they think we're going to be around for the long haul and we're part of their lives."

Work begins in a few weeks to remove asbestos. Things should be back by summer 2015.