By Belinda M. Paschal
PIQUA — With plumbing, electrical and fire inspections out of the way, the new state-of-the education center at Johnston Farm and Indian Agency is ready to open its doors to visitors.
“We’re obviously very happy to get this all finished. We’re ready to get the season started,” said Andy Hite, site manager for Johnston Farm.
Despite the harsh winter, construction crews completed the facility on schedule.
“I can’t say enough about Heyne Construction. Considering the winter we had, they only had to miss three days because of the weather,” Hite said. “Once they had a roof over their heads, they worked right through it.”
The official dedication of the new facility will be June 14, coinciding with Johnston Farm’s first summer events, Family Day and the annual car show.
What once was the patio of the Indian museum now is a 1,300-square-foot enclosure overlooking the Miami and Erie Canal. The facility is suitable for school field trips — with the first one taking place April 14, as well as meetings, educational programs and community gatherings.
“One of the things that drove the design was to have the flexibility to do a lot of different things,” Hite said. “(Architect) Fred Smith did a really great job and had a lot of great ideas.”
The focal point of the new addition is its exhibits on Ohio’s canal era from 1825 to 1909, chronicling the construction, operation and maintenance of the canals. A large map of the state’s canal system decorates one wall, flanked by glass cases displaying timber and iron parts from old canal locks.
“We just moved the exhibits in last week,” Hite said, adding that he hoped the space created by moving the canal exhibit from the museum to the education center could be used for exhibits more intensely focusing on Ohio Indian tribes from this area, as well as provide a forum for visiting speakers and storytellers.
“It would give us a chance to have rotating exhibits and give those folks a chance to tell a story that hasn’t been told,” Hite said.
The addition of the education center was made possible by contributions from more than 140 individuals, corporations and foundations, including lead gifts totaling more than $70,000 from the Piqua Community Foundation, Lundgard, Duke Foundation, Vectren and the Ohio Historical Society.
“Our initial goal was $100,000. By the end of August (2013), we had reached that goal, and now we’ve exceeded it,” Hite said. “People saw the value of what we do here and they supported it.”
Still, funds are needed to finish the facility’s audiovisual system, Hite noted.
To that end, the Johnston Farm Friends Council is continuing its partnership with the Piqua Community Foundation as the fiscal agent for the fundraising campaign. The foundation, which collects the funds and places them in an account for the project, is seeking contributions locally, regionally and nationally. To become a supporter, contact the Piqua Community Foundation at (937) 615-9080.
Belinda M. Paschal may be reached at (937) 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.