Lane Place brings shortened season to a close


The Lane Place will close to the public for the winter Saturday following a pandemic-shortened year spent taking the museum virtual and doing maintenance on the 175-year-old house.

The coronavirus hit just as the Montgomery County Historical Society at Lane Place was gearing up for the tourist season. Tours were delayed until November and the Strawberry Festival, which is hosted on the grounds, was canceled.

“It’s been very quiet here,” director Jill Coates-Matthews said.

Coates-Matthews turned to social media to allow visitors to see the landmark’s Victorian-era rooms from home. Videos from each of the rooms were posted on Facebook. A redesigned website was also launched, featuring a blog that highlights pieces of the collection and oral histories.

About $25,000 in grants helped the organization pay the bills as the museum remained closed for tours.

With funding from the Montgomery County Community Foundation, an arborist surveyed trees on the grounds, identifying two severely diseased trees that threatened both the Lane Place and Speed Cabin structures. The trees were removed.

Several other dying trees will likely have to come down in the next few years, Coates-Matthews said.

Other maintenance projects involved stripping, repainting and repairing columns on the house. The carriage entrance and a section of the library floor were also repainted.

MCHS members received an update on the year’s projects Wednesday during a virtual meeting. Awards were given to two active local historians for their efforts to chronicle Montgomery County’s past.

Dellie Craig, reference and local history librarian at the Crawfordsville District Public Library, received the Gronert-Bowerman Award for Education. The award, which is named for the late Wabash College history professor and local history author Ted Gronert and the late longtime educator and historian John Bowerman, recognizes projects to record, edit and preserve historical recollections.

“I appreciate being recognized for [her work] because I’ve communicated with so many people and helped so many people find their ancestors, answer the questions and educate them about our town and our people,” Craig said after the meeting.

Retired high school teacher Karen Zach, who has written extensively about local history, accepted the Krout-Wallace Award of Literature or Journalism.

The award is named after the late journalist and author Mary Hannah Krout and Gen. Lew Wallace and honors published works of local history.

“If you can rank up there with Wallace, you know,” Zach later said with a laugh.

Matt Salzman was re-elected board president and Tim McCormick will continue serving as vice president. Terri Fyffe was elected secretary and Ray Kirtley the treasurer.

The museum plans to reopen for tours in March if public health guidelines allow.

“I feel like everyone else that we’re kind of playing this all by ear a little bit to see what happens. We just want to make sure that everyone’s safe — visitors coming into the house as well as any volunteers or docents that are helping out here,” Coates-Matthews said.


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