The National Women’s Hall of Fame (NWHF) has been named a finalist in the Partners in Preservation grant program. The grant would help fund the rehabilitation of the NWHF’s new headquarters in Seneca Falls, N.Y. — the birthplace of the American Women’s Rights Movement. Once complete, it will roughly double its current capacity and increase its exhibit, event and programming spaces substantially.
However, in order to win the available funding, the Women’s Hall of Fame needs to rank among the top public vote recipients during a month-long competition between 20 finalists which begins tomorrow.
The Partners in Preservation program — a collaboration of The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Main Street America and American Express — will distribute $2 million to projects across the nation via a public participation process. The program is designed to raise awareness of work happening across the U.S. to revitalize main streets and neighborhoods in small towns, mid-sized cities and urban centers.
The public will engage in an online voting campaign to determine the winners, all of which must be capital preservation projects — i.e., “bricks & mortar” work — that “must yield a defined and visible improvement to a historic building, object or district.” Voting will begin Sept. 25 and remain open until Oct. 26. Grant winners will be announced October 29.
The NWHF is seeking funds to support its restoration of the 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill, the Hall’s long-anticipated new home, as it relocates from the historic Seneca Falls bank building it has called home since 1979. The new Hall will ultimately include the entire four-story mill building as well as its annexes and exterior grounds. Hall officials estimate the new facility will more than double its yearly attendance, which currently ranges from 8,000 to 11,000 visitors. The project phase connected to the Partners in Preservation grant is scheduled to begin in March 2019 and conclude by June 2020.
In addition to its larger size, the 1844 Mill was selected because of its unique relevance to Seneca Falls’ and women’s rights history. In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and 300 others gathered in Seneca Falls for the first Women’s Rights Convention. The document known as the Declaration of Sentiments — modeled after the Declaration of Independence — was presented, debated and passed by the convention. It included, among other demands, that women be given the right to vote.
The convention was widely viewed as a flashpoint in the struggle for American women’s rights, starting a movement that led to the 1920 passage of the U.S. Constitution’s 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.
Inspired by The Declaration of Sentiments, many at the 1848 Convention recognized that women’s equality was interconnected with numerous abolition and Native American issues. The Mill site weaves these concepts together, as two of its original trustees were abolitionists and among the 32 men who signed the Declaration of Sentiments. Thus, the NWHF’s choice to make the Mill its new home brings together a confluence of equality movements, representing achievements across race, class, age, region, immigration status, and areas of achievement.
The National Women’s Hall of Fame is the nation’s oldest membership organization dedicated to honoring and celebrating the achievements of distinguished American women. With 266 inductees to date, the Hall uses the stories of its Inductees as tools for inspiration, innovation and imagination.
Some of the sites included the competition are: an Alabama church where four black girls were killed during a 1963 bombing, a church in Los Angeles that was a hub for Mexican immigrants and a Miami building often referred to as the Ellis Island of the South because of its support for Cuban refugees.
Each of the 20 locations will receive $20,000 to help bring attention to their project and get people to vote for them. Each site also hosts an open house weekend from Oct. 19th-21st during which they open their doors to the local community and encourage people to come by and vote.
The winners will be announced Oct. 29th. To vote, go to http://VoteYourMainStreet.org