Three projects are seeking major Natural and Cultural Heritage grants this year from Douglas County, which has set aside $350,000 for a program designed to conserve natural and cultural resources and enhance the economic benefits of tourism, agriculture and other endeavors.
Leaders of the three projects will be making presentations to members of the Heritage Conservation Council, which meets at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 11th and Massachusetts streets.
Council members plan to forward recommendations in November to Douglas County commissioners, who are responsible for awarding grants.
Watkins Community Museum of History
Who: Douglas County Historical Society
What: Continue development of a permanent exhibit at 1047 Mass., one that would “incorporate interactive elements, sound and video to engage visitors with a high-quality 21st century museum experience” on the second and third floors of the 123-year-old bank building. The grant would finance detailed plans and models, allowing the society to seek another $350,000 from donors to go with the $51,000 already raised to put the exhibit in place.
Why: “What approving this project will do is allow the Watkins to focus as a key to Douglas County heritage,” said Steve Nowak, the society’s executive director. “We’re in a great location, where we attract tourists, residents, students. And the exhibit will really help us interpret our past, and share stories about how people in the past have shaped our future, and inspire continued civic engagement among our visitors.”
Eudora Main Street
Who: Eudora Area Historical Society
What: Renovation of the first floor of 720 and 722 Main to install a new floor, utilities, and heating and air conditioning systems. The project would secure the donation of the property to the society and represent the first step toward establishing a Eudora Community Museum.
Why: “It really will benefit the community to finally have a museum to call their own, a place where their artifacts and documents are stored, a place to provide education about the history of their community, a place to work with the school district to provide history to students,” says Ben Terwilliger, an intern for the society. “It’s preserving a very historic building and hopefully preserving the original character of Eudora’s downtown, which is rapidly diminishing.”
Robert Hall Pearson Farmhouse
Who: Black Jack Battlefield Trust
What: Compile a historic structures report, documenting the history and condition of the home built in 1890, then rehabilitate the building — starting with repointing the stone foundation — and working up upward from there.
Why: “This is the most incredible educational opportunity for Douglas County,” says , Carol von Tersch, president of the trust, who notes the farmstead can tell three stories — of the 1856 Battle of Black Jack, of the 1890 farmstead, and of the natural environment of both the past and present — in one place. “It’s the opportunity to develop these three interrelated themes, and it’s also the opportunity to develop these themes with all the other sites in the Freedom’s Frontier Natural Heritage Area, to develop that interconnectedness. It’s the battle for freedom. That’s the central core of the whole heritage area. This if freedom’s frontier.”