More than two years after the Great Lakes Historical Society and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority announced plans to bring a maritime history museum from Vermilion, Ohio, to Toledo, ground will officially be broken this morning for the $10 million project.
Much of the ground being broken will be in the Maumee River in preparation for the arrival of the museum ship Col. James M. Schoonmaker and on the land along the new slip where a maritime park is planned. The National Museum of the Great Lakes itself will take shape inside the Toledo Maritime Center at the north end of the Marina District.
Chris Gillcrist, executive director of the Great Lakes Historical Society, said the Schoonmaker is expected to be moved into its new slip next to the museum Oct. 20. Workers still must build a sheet pile wall along the shore where the museum ship will be moored and complete dredging of the river so that the ship can be moved from its current location.
Mr. Gillcrist is excited.
“To be able to look down the tunnel and see a light and not think it’s a train headed toward you is a good thing,” he said.
City and state officials were expected to take part in the 10 a.m. groundbreaking ceremony.
The Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission provided $6,075,000 for the project, the balance of which is being paid for with private fundraising. Mr. Gillcrist said the historical society hopes to raise $2.5 million to $3 million.
“Because of the money that we’ve secured from the state of Ohio, we are already funded at about 83 percent of the total goal,” Mr. Gillcrist said. “If you think of what’s already been given for restoration of the [Schoonmaker] and what’s already been spent by the society out of its own resources, we need to raise about 17 percent of the final money.”
The Great Lakes Historical Society will have spent nearly $500,000 by year’s end on design work for the new museum, which will feature more than 50 interactive exhibits as well as original artifacts in nearly 10,000 square feet of exhibit space, he said.
Robin Whitney, Toledo’s commissioner of engineering services and a member of the museum's planning committee, said she believes the museum in combination with the ship and the park will "be a great addition to the community," boosting both tourism and education efforts.
"There's just such a positive benefit to all of this," Ms. Whitney said. "We've had the Boyer, which is rechristened the Schoonmaker, on our shoreline on the Maumee for several years, but now we're going to be able to position that museum ship right next to a national museum... It will be a great amenity on our waterfront."
Mr. Gillcrist said the museum will be national in scope.
"When we say the word 'national' we think this museum will cover topics across the Great Lakes from Alexandria Bay up in Ontario to Duluth,” he said. “This is not just a Lake Erie museum."
The museum also will examine the critical role the Great Lakes played in the development of the United States. And, while its scope is national, it also is designed to weave Toledo stories through the exhibits, he said.
“When people come to the museum they can sort of follow the Toledo thread in Great Lakes history as well as the big picture,” Mr. Gillcrist said.
The museum is expected to open next summer.