Kent County Arts Council, Inc. and its new partner organization, G.A.R. Post #25, Inc. have acquired the Charles Sumner Post #25, The Grand Army of the Republic in Chestertown, Maryland. Fundraising continues to complete restoration of the building which will open to the public in 2013.
The historic building will become a world-class museum with an exhibition about the nation’s Civil War and the story of African Americans’ involvement in it. The building will also include an event space, which will feature jazz, blues, gospel and classical music, youth programs, poetry readings, lecture series, theatre and a film series for everyone to enjoy.
The Charles Sumner Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), also known as Centennial Hall, was built in 1908 by African American veterans of the Civil War and served as a gathering place for veterans of the U.S. Colored Troops. It was named in honor of the famous Massachusetts antislavery senator. It served as the center of African-American community life for 60 years. It is the only building of its kind in the state of Maryland, and one of only two such monuments left standing in the United States. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
The capital campaign is an effort of Kent County Arts Council in cooperation with leaders of the African American Community, Town of Chestertown, Kent County Department of Tourism and Economic Development, Main Street Historic Chestertown, Preservation Incorporated, Washington College SIFE, and many other interested citizens, from near and far.
Charles Sumner Post # 25, Grand Army of the Republic received a Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) FY 2013 Community Legacy Program Award of $125,000.
In March 2012, The Charles Sumner Post #25, Grand Army of the Republic was awarded a generous grant of $100,000 by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development through its Community Legacy program. This grant, overseen by the Town of Chestertown and administered by Kent County Arts Council provided funds to acquire the building from its owner, Preservation, Inc. A matching gift from an anonymous local resident enabled the Arts Council to acquire the building in October 2012. Additional funding was received from the Maryland Historical Trust’s Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (Stories of the Chesapeake) ($25,300); The John Ben Snow Memorial Trust ($15,000); Preservation Maryland ($2,500) and The National Trust for Historic Preservation Bartus Trew Providence Preservation Fund ($22,500). Matching funds have been contributed by private donations. The funds will be used to complete renovations to make this historic structure ready for building a program to support a vibrant center of performance, display, education and research that honors local African American culture and the country’s Civil War heritage.
In March 2012 the site was selected for the 2012 Endangered Maryland list by Maryland Life Magazine. This distinction supports the need to save and restore this historic Maryland property for the future. Ms. Raimond hopes the Endangered Maryland listing will “bring much-needed attention to this unique artifact of Maryland history and help in the campaign to raise money to reconstruct the interior of the building and develop exhibits that will honor the role of its builders.”
To participate in this historic campaign please contribute today via PayPal or download, print and mail the pledge form. To follow the progress of this project like the Charles Sumner Post #25 Facebook Page.