By Sarah Volpenhein of the Marion Star
MARION — Harding Home backers are inching closer to raising all the money needed to build a new museum charting Warren G. Harding’s presidency, with about 83 percent of the goal raised.
Wyandot Snacks revealed Tuesday that it has pledged $100,000 to Harding 2020, the estimated $8.46 million project to restore the Harding Home and build an adjacent museum in time for the centennial of Warren G. Harding’s election to the presidency in 1920. That project cost also includes plans for an endowment for future site operations.
The snack manufacturer has been supporting the restoration, the museum construction and the seeding of the endowment over several years, according to Doug Sweeney, senior development officer with the Ohio History Connection.
The Ohio History Connection revealed in May that it had completed fundraising for the $1.3 million to $1.4 million restoration of the Harding Home and its grounds to their state in 1920 when Harding ran his “front porch” campaign for the Oval Office.
However, fundraising is ongoing for the second piece of the project, the construction of a 11,100-square-foot museum dubbed the Warren G. Harding Presidential Center, which will take visitors through the story of Harding’s presidency.
That construction project is estimated to cost about $6 million, a cost that has risen since the project was first announced, Sweeney said.
“Construction prices are on the rise right now, and we have yet to put the project out to bid,” he said, adding that about 83 percent of the museum’s cost has been raised at this point.
The state of Ohio has made significant contributions to the Harding 2020 project, committing a total of $3 million to the project in its biennial capital budgets. Private donors, including OhioHealth and the Marion Community Foundation, have also donated to the project.
Sweeney lauded Wyandot’s pledge toward the effort.
“It’s an extremely generous contribution, and it shows leadership on the part of Wyandot in support of the Harding 2020 project,” he said.
Sweeney encouraged people and businesses to donate any amount, saying that the Ohio History Connection was still “right in the heart” of its campaign to raise money for the museum’s construction.
“Every gift will make a difference, and we are seeking broad-based support from Marion and well beyond Marion,” he said.
In a press release, Wyandot President and CEO Rob Sarlls pointed to the role history plays as a “bridge” and “our greatest teacher” to the reason behind the snack manufacturer’s gift.
“President Harding, Ohio’s last President, played a pivotal role in the emergence of America as a modern player on the world stage. His life and legacy will be better understood when shared with scholars, visitors and residents alike,” he said in the release.
Project leaders plan to break ground on the Harding Presidential Center in the fall of this year.
The Harding Home, which has been closed since September for restoration, is slated to reopen to the public in late spring 2019, though it will be closed again that fall for work on the expanded site, including the press house, according to Sweeney.
The Harding Home, the museum and the press house are expected to open to the public in spring 2020, he said in an email.