Carmel Clay Historical Society plans $6.7 million museum expansion

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The Carmel Clay Historical Society plans to demolish an archive building next to its Historic Monon Depot and build a new $6.7 million building with additional displays, storage and offices.

“The idea of building a new archives building has been something we’ve been talking about for at least 10 years,” said Dan McFeely, president of the not-for-profit’s board and a city spokesperson. “The discussion predates the expansion of the Monon Greenway. Back when we started talking about it, the Monon was still a 14-foot path.”

A proposed rezone of the property at 211 1st St. SW in Carmel’s Midtown will be introduced at Monday night’s Carmel City Council meeting.

The local history museum has sat on the property just north of what’s now the GOAT Tavern since 1980. For the historical society to redevelop a portion of that property, the city will have to have to rezone it from a residential designation to a commercial designation so that it legally conforms to the museum activities taking place on the site.

The Carmel Clay Historical Society is currently allowed to conduct museum operations in a residential area as a legal non-conforming use.

McFeely said the society’s current archival building is a ranch house likely built in the 1970s. He said it’s both in poor shape and has insufficient space for the museum’s archives. Since the city expanded the Monon Trail and encouraged nearby development, McFeely said the society has altered its plans for its space to take advantage of the area’s popularity.

The Clay Township Board approved $4.3 million in July for a new multipurpose building, and Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard has earmarked $2.4 million of a proposed $125 million in bonds to round out the project’s costs.

Instead of just building additional archives, McFeely said the society is planning to build a three-story building with a potential basement or lower level. The plan is for the building to have a main floor with room for permanent exhibits and a coffee shop or gift store. The second floor is planned to have offices, storage and a conference room available to other not-for-profit groups, and the third floor would be for storage.

McFeely said there could also be room for a child’s play area, working desks for researchers, interactive touch screens and a potential rooftop garden that would be rented out for weddings as a way to pay for the building’s maintenance and upkeep.

The former Monon Depot, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, currently acts as the museum’s main building. It not be redeveloped as part of the project. McFeely said its programming could evolve, though, into a part of the museum focused exclusively on local train history.

There is no official timeline for the project, but McFeely said he’s hopeful it will break ground later this year. In the meantime, McFeely said the society is looking to create and fund an endowment that will support the operations of that building.

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4 thoughts on “Carmel Clay Historical Society plans $6.7 million museum expansion

  1. What are the Historical Society’s most recent annual revenues and expenses? And, because the article does not make it clear, how much of the $6.7 million cost for the new facility will the organization pay and how much will local government pay?

  2. I know the CCHS is visited by schools and other community groups, used by local researchers and was even the site of Boy Scout Eagle project. But for each person that uses or visits it, many more people walk by it on the Monon barely aware of what sits inside. I think creating a larger, newer space for the public that also raises its profile is a fantastic idea.