Historic Deerfield launches $10M campaign

  • The Asa Stebbins House in Historic Deerfield is slated for renovations. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Cracks in the plaster will be repaired at the Asa Stebbins House in Historic Deerfield STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The staircase and hallway in the Asa Stebbins House. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Cracks in the plaster ceiling are one of the concerns at the Asa Stebbins House in Historic Deerfield STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Asa Stebbins House in Historic Deerfield is slated for renovations. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Asa Stebbins House dinning room in Historic Deerfield STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The interior of the Asa Stebbins House in Historic Deerfield STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZInside the Asa Stebbins House in Historic Deerfield STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Asa Stebbins House in Historic Deerfield. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/9/2019 10:37:57 PM

DEERFIELD – Historic Deerfield announced Monday the launch of a campaign to raise $10 million to bolster historic preservation and visitor engagement at the museum.

Development Director Jesse Vanek said the campaign, titled “America’s Town, America’s Story,” consists of three major components meant to shape Historic Deerfield’s future by focusing on preservation and new programming aimed at sharing Deerfield’s stories with a greater audience.

“We really do have a national audience and we’re going to look at ways to expand reach to those who maybe don’t live within a two-hour drive,” Vanek said, adding that there are roughly 1,000 Historic Deerfield members throughout the United States. “We do see ourselves as a national museum of national significance.”

The campaign’s two current-use funds are designated for $1.1 million for the Asa Stebbins House and $3.5 million for the expansion of some current programming early next year to extend its educational reach. The third main component entails generating $5.4 million in endowment funding – $3.9 million for the ongoing historic preservation needs along Old Main Street and the preservation of objects in Historic Deerfield’s collection, and $1.5 million for the marketing, maintenance and promotion of the museum’s materials and impending new programming.

“This comes out of a feasibility study we conducted with a campaign consultant about two years ago and we have been quietly chipping away at this for about a year and half,” Vanek said.

He said Historic Deerfield has been working with large donors to reach the $5 million in current-use and endowed funds, which will ensure the Stebbins House and the centuries-old buildings lining Old Main Street are maintained and preserved. According to Laurie Nivison, Historic Deerfield’s director of marketing, that $5 million will also help Historic Deerfield expand program offerings that will in essence bring these buildings back to life.

Anyone interested in contributing to the cause can make a tax-deductible donation at bit.ly/321efcA.

Eric Gradoia, the museum’s director of historic preservation, said the Stebbins House was built in 1799, the same year George Washington died. Gradoia said Stebbins likely hired one of America’s first architects, Asher Benjamin, who also built the Leavitt-Hovey House (which serves as the Greenfield Public Library), to construct the home, which was the first brick house in the area. According to information from Nivison, the house features a revolutionary “flying staircase,” an elaborate molded plaster ceiling, moldings inspired by early Greek and Roman design, and decorative wall treatments.

Gradoia said Historic Deerfield founders Henry and Helen Flynt in 1946 purchased the building, which was last restored in the 1950s. Age, usage and environmental conditions have deteriorated the home’s structure and finishes. Gradoia said the house needs structural repairs and a lot of mechanical improvements, such as an HVAC system.

“(Restoration) gives us a chance to reevaluate the building and take a 21st century look at it,” he said, “and maybe even learn things that we hadn’t even known about it in the past.”

According to Nivison, a research phase will allow Historic Deerfield to develop a comprehensive understanding of the building. The restoration process is expected to include archival research to learn the history of the building and its occupants. Also, Historic Deerfield staff will build a chronology illustrating the life of the occupants as well as the evolution and uses of the house. Archaeology will be performed in an effort to gather information on the areas surrounding the house.

Gradoia said the Stebbins clan is a long-established family in Deerfield. Gradoia explained Asa Stebbins was born in 1767 and became a militiaman and farmer who was also involved with the mills built in town. Stebbins died in 1844 and left the home to his children. The Lamb family from Greenfield purchased it in 1889 and owned it until the Flynts bought it.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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