GREENFIELD — Mary Greenan always knows the question is coming.
When newly engaged couples call about the Chapel in the Park, a museum and wedding venue cared for by the Hancock County Historical Society, they’re encouraged by the low rental rates and the scenic location at the edge of Riley Park on Apple Street. Then, imagining their summertime celebration, they ask, “Is it air-conditioned?”
When prospective renters learn there’s no air-conditioning in the building, which hasn’t seen an upgrade to its furnace and electrical system since 1981, more than half of them turn away from the site, Greenan said.
Leaders with the historical society hope that loss of rental income is about to end — allowing the nonprofit to better sustain itself — with the installation of a new system, including air-conditioning for the warmer months. The Hancock County Tourism Commission provided the nonprofit organization with about $12,000 in grant funding earlier this fall, facilitating the upgrade to the historic building.
The funding will also cover the costs of bringing the electrical wiring in the chapel up to code.
It’s certainly understandable that prospective renters have looked elsewhere for their summer and fall events, said Mary Greenan, a member of the historical society board. She rented the site out to five groups for weddings in 2017 and estimates she could have secured twice that amount if the chapel had kept guests comfortable with air-conditioning available at the time.
The Chapel in the Park Museum, originally the Philadelphia United Methodist Church, was acquired by the historical society and relocated six miles down U.S. 40 to the park in 1981, according to the county historical society’s website.
Not having air-conditioning has hurt more than the nonprofit’s bottom line, leaders said.
The historical society collects items including clothing, military paraphernalia, historic papers, photos, letters and more from the public to preserve for future generations, to display in exhibits, and to document the history of Hancock County, according to the society’s website.
The fluctuating climate has damaged the historical artifacts held in the basement of the Chapel in the Park, said Jamie Blackburn, a member of the historical society board.
“I’ve watched a lot of artifacts deteriorate in the basement dampness,” Blackburn told the tourism commission.