Museum project gets $50,000 boost from tourism board

GREENFIELD — Fundraising is underway for a project doubling the size of a downtown event space.

A fundraising committee for the project to replace ‘Lizbeth Ann’s Kitchen, an outbuilding behind the James Whitcomb Riley Boyhood Home and Museum, has secured $50,000 toward the project estimated to cost between $175,000 and $200,000, said Riley Old Home Society president David Crider.

The Hancock County Tourism Commission granted $50,000 to the project, which aims to demolish the 500-square-foot former garage behind the museum and replace it with a more energy-efficient building nearly twice the size.

A fundraising committee is working on grant applications to local and state organizations and businesses to raise the majority of the funding, Crider said. Riley Old Home Society leaders, who serve as the fundraising wing of Riley’s ancestral home, hope to secure a dollar-to-dollar matching grant from the Indiana Office of Tourism Development.

Projects that contribute to the development and improvement of local economies and communities throughout Indiana by means of enhancing, expanding and promoting the visitor industry are eligible to receive funding, according to the Indiana Office of Tourism Development website.

Riley Old Home Society members and city officials believe improving the facility will not only improve the quality of tours for those who visit Riley’s boyhood home but also draw more events to the space, from corporate meetings to small weddings.

The proposed facility aims to solve several issues created by the age, inefficiency and condition of the current building, which was once a garage, officials said. It will expand the space and connect the building with the museum.

Currently, the building can only hold about 25 people, meaning larger tour groups must split up among the building, a gazebo and gardens around the museum, which isn’t an attractive option when it’s raining, said tourism director Brigette Cook Jones, who previously served as the museum coordinator.

Furthermore, the building has only one toilet and must be shut down for the winter, because it’s not insulated, meaning freezing weather will lead to the pipes freezing, Jones said.

City leaders have discussed expanding buildings on the Riley Home campus to create an event space since the late 1980s, Jones said.

The city has pledged its support to the project, helping to draw up design work meeting modern accessibility requirements and helping to engineer the electric and sewer work for the new facility.

The next steps for the project include the Riley Old Home Society meeting with Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell to discuss how much funding the city will put toward the project. Greenfield Parks and Recreation director Ellen Kuker told the Daily Reporter in August the city is expected to contribute about $50,000.

Work is expected to begin on the project in early 2019, Crider said.

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.