Fundraiser to aid rehab plans
A local museum group amid overseeing many needed repairs and renovations to its location prior to the COVID-19 pandemic is just now getting back up to speed and restarting its long-halted plans. The Ward-Heitmann House Executive Board has announced plans for a fundraiser in conjunction with renewed construction of what man consider the city’s oldest extant structure.
The museum has launched the “Get a Hug from Ward-Heitmann” fundraiser to help raise funds for the museum’s restoration and preservation initiatives. Highlighting the 501(c)(3) non-profit charity’s new logo, Ward-Heitmann House is selling 50/50, poly/cotton hoodie sweatshirts at $25 each with sizes ranging from Small-5XL until Jan. 30. Hoodie color selections are white and navy blue.
The effort is an attempt to get things back on track after an almost-three-year hiatus due to the worldwide pandemic.
In a press release issued last week, the museum’s board announced a restructuring of its bylaws and operating code, but more importantly, it has set its sights on re-starting the work that was halted back in 2020.
“The Ward-Heitmann House Museum continues with the extensive renovations that began before the pandemic. The house was raised off the ground in the first phase, and a new foundation was poured underneath the side wing. In the second phase, the foundation for the main house structure was repaired, and new drainage was initiated. Tighe & Bond were hired as the engineering company to oversee the foundation and grading work,” the press release read.
Several structural problems were in need of correction, forcing the museum to close prior to the pandemic for the repairs. One other problem arose, however, that made the closure longer and more costly.
Drainage around the building was compromising its integrity. It forced what was then thought to be a temporary — and short – closure into something much longer.
“A correction was needed for the grading around the house, which caused the work to stop,” the press release noted. “This issue has been resolved, and grading will be finished in April this year. New grass will be planted as well. The third phase is replacing the roof and any needed repairs inside the museum.”
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, located in Washington, DC, has an easement on the property. Therefore, they must approve all plans and any renovations to the museum, including the materials used, along with state and local approvals. It is an extensive process.
The nine-member all-volunteer board of the Ward-Heitmann House Museum Foundation, Inc., has directed the fortunes of the facility since it opened in the early 2000s. The board has always made the property self-sustaining and is not owned by any state or municipal agency. All funds come from private or grant sources.
The board has raised funds to make the necessary updates, with most of the money coming from grants (more than $300,000 from the state, businesses, and private foundations were raised entirely by the board).
“State Rep. Dorinda Borer (D-115) secured an additional $100,000 in bond funds. Operating expenses (even while closed) are approximately $20,000 yearly,” read the press release.
Although the main museum was closed during this time, the Blacksmith Shop continued operating and participated in the CT Kids are Free at the museum initiative. The project was announced on group’s Facebook page, and through the West Haven Public Library for the past two summers. Grants from CT Humanities funded this project. A member of the board volunteered as the blacksmith for these demonstrations.
While the structural problems were addressed, the planning and consultations of professionals was necessary. The board said several professionals worked pro bono to aid the effort.
“Special thanks to Attorney Fred Hedberg of the law firm of Robinson & Cole for volunteering his many hours of expertise as an attorney and a civil engineer to assist the museum board in navigating the drainage project; Attorneys Russell Da Silva and Jonathan Russell of the New York City law office of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP, for volunteering to assist the board by overseeing the updating of by-laws and other necessary documentation necessary to operate as a nonprofit organization; Attorney Priya Morganstern, director of the CT Probono Partnership, for her unwavering support of nonprofit organizations; (and) Past, present and future board members and volunteers who have come together to preserve this small but important piece of West Haven history,” the press release read.
For those interested in the “Get a Hug from Ward-Heitmann hoodies, orders with payments may be placed via Venmo @wardheitmann. Checks, made payable to the Ward-Heitmann House Museum, may also be mailed to Ward-Heitmann House Museum, PO Box 573, West Haven 06516. All orders with payments must be received no later than Jan. 30.
When sending payment please include in the “Notes,” field of Venmo or on a separate piece of paper with your mailed check the following information: your name, street address, email, and telephone, as well hoodie color choices with corresponding sizes and quantities.
Orders may be picked up at the West Haven Library – Main Branch, 300 Elm St. from Feb. 14-18 during the following hours: Feb. 14-16, 10-6:30; Feb. 17-18, 10-4.