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$3.9 million awarded to Underground Railroad Museum

News source
The Times Leader

T-L photo/GAGE VOTA The Morristown Historic Preservation Association Vice President Pamala McCourt (left) and Museum Director of the Underground Railroad Museum Kristine Estle (right) pictured together in front of the Black Horse Inn which is the future location of the Underground Railroad Museum.

MORRISTOWN — The Underground Railroad Museum has received $3.9 million from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s Appalachian Community Grant Program. The program is part of a $154 million investment in Appalachian downtowns and destinations.

The Underground Railroad Museum, while currently located at 121 E High St. in Flushing, is set to move to the historic Black Horse Inn in Morristown. The inn, built in 1807, is one of the last remaining inns and taverns on Old National Road. It is believed to have also been a stop on the Underground Railroad.

A portion of the grant will go towards completely renovating the inn, which has sat vacant for several years, to make it acceptable to become the museum’s new permanent location.

“There’s about a million dollars worth of renovations that need to be done first,” Museum Director Kristina Estle said.

The Underground Railroad museum’s current site will continue to be open to the public Thursdays through Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m. until the move is complete. The museum is donation-based. Due to it being fully funded through donations, museum officials recommend a $10-$20 donation.

The cost of the project will be more than $2 million for construction, more than $300,000 for architectural and engineering work, $438,000 for site work and $1 million dollars for equipment. Due to the grant being funded through the Appalachian Community Grant, there are certain stipulations on when the project must be done. This project must be completed by 2026.

Belmont County Tourism Council Executive Director Jackee Pugh said that after DeWine announced the creation of the Appalachian Community Grant Program, she presented the concept to the Belmont County Commissioners.

“They were on board right away,” Pugh said. “I talked to my board of directors, the Underground Railroad Museum, and the Morristown Historic Preservation Association, and just got all the stakeholders really excited.”

This project is a joint affair between the Underground Railroad Museum, The Belmont County Tourism Council and the Morristown Historic Preservation Association. The Morristown Historic Preservation owns the Black Horse Inn, but hasn’t had success with securing funding in the past. The Appalachian Community Grant Program approved the funding the joint initiative requested.

“We are a nonprofit and so is the Underground Railroad Museum, so this a partnership and this is exactly what the Governor wanted to see,” Pamela McCort, Morristown Historic Preservation Association Vice President, said.

Artifacts from the Underground Railroad will be curated and relocated to the Black Horse Inn once it is remodeled. The main floor of the inn will accommodate the Underground Railroad Museum, with the second floor to potentially serve as an Airbnb. The basement is planned to accommodate food service businesses.

“Throughout this entire process, everyone we have talked to has been really supportive and excited and saw the potential that this could be for Belmont County,” said Pugh.

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