Community Foundation provides kickstart to endowment for Harding 2020 project

The Harding 2020 project received a significant boost from Marion Community Foundation. Marion Community Foundation has awarded a grant of $31,250 to the Harding Home and Presidential Center project, and intends to provide similar awards over the next 8 years for a total of $250,000 in support. This is in addition to the $225,000 previously granted to the Harding Project in early 2016 to assist with the acquisition of neighboring properties to expand the current Home site.

According to Sherry Hall, site manager for the Harding Home, the Foundation’s most recent grant award will kickstart an endowment fund for the Presidential Site’s long-term financial plan.  Marion Community Foundation’s grant is made possible by the Robert M. & Dorothy C. Wopat Community Fund, which was established in 2008.

“Our goal is to have $1 million or more in the endowment,” said Hall. “We appreciate that Marion Community Foundation is helping us significantly to start this effort and, of course, we welcome additional donors. Creating an endowment is our way of being fiscally responsible and helping to support the operations and maintenance of the Harding Presidential Site well into the future.”

Marion Community Foundation has been working with Harding 2020 over the past two years. According to Dean Jacob, President and CEO, “We are pleased to support this new milestone in Marion’s history, celebrating the United States’ 29th president, Warren G. Harding. Marion Community Foundation cannot be more proud to be a major benefactor in this exciting project that will bring further prominence to Marion.”

Harding 2020 is a collaboration between the Ohio History Connection and Marion Technical College, the local site manager for the Harding Home and Harding Memorial. The Harding 2020 project will completely restore the Harding Home to its 1920s era appearance in time for the 100th anniversary of Harding’s presidential campaign.  Moreover, Harding 2020 involves a major expansion of the home site to include the Harding Presidential Center, which will serve as a visitor center, museum, archives, and multi-purpose event facility.

“The property acquisition is now 100 percent complete,” said Hall. “We are working aggressively on the interpretive plan, which is the blueprint for all aspects of the new Presidential Center, from what items are included in the exhibits and how they are displayed to what our tour guides share with visitors. The interpretive plan has been months in the making and answers the question of exactly what we want visitors to learn and know once they have visited. It’s a huge undertaking.”

“The Presidential Center creates an experience that is so much more than just a tour of the home and chronology of Harding’s political career,” said Hall. “It will allow us to finally tell Harding’s story in its entirety. We will cover all aspects of Harding’s life, including the controversial.”

Hall is emphatic that Harding’s story is much more than most people realize and the new Presidential Center will become the national repository of ‘all things Harding.’  The new facility will include a large exhibit gallery which is being professionally developed by the Ohio History Connection, a research room, and multimedia classrooms.

“It will be a place for researchers and academics studying Harding as well as students, local residents, and tourists,” said Hall. “Harding 2020 will immerse visitors in the world of the 1920s. It will help explain Harding’s worldview, the challenges and complexities he faced as President in that time, and how his presidency impacts our world today.”

The new Presidential Site will be part of the cultural corridor being developed by the Marion Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, which starts at the Harding Home and continues through downtown, encompassing the Palace Theatre and ending at Marion Union Station.

“The Harding Center and the cultural corridor help residents and visitors connect with the story of Marion,” said Hall. “It’s important to embrace the story our town tells. Not every town has such an important story to tell as does Marion. The Harding 2020 project will make that story come to life.”

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