Belinda M. Paschal
PIQUA — Johnston Farm and Indian Agency moved into the first phase of developing its new education center with a well-attended official groundbreaking on Wednesday.
“This has been a long time coming and I think they students are going to be the ones to gain from this,” said Andy Hite, site manager for Johnston Farm. “We’re teaking a space that wasn’t completely usable and turning it into something that will benefit the schoolkids and the community.”
When completed, what once was the patio of the Indian museum will be an enclosed, 1,300-square-foot, state-of-the-art education center with a view of the Miami and Erie Canal. The facility would include a classroom, meeting room, program room and community gathering space with catering facilities. The projected completion date is early spring 2014 — weather permitting — just in time for school field trips.
The new facility also will allow canal-related exhibits to be moved closer to the canal area. The space created by moving those exhibits will be used for rotating displays, as well as for exhibits focusing on the Indian tribes that lived in Ohio.
Jim Oda of the Johnston Farm Friends Council praised Hite for his perseverance in seeing this project become reality. “Andy has been pushing for this kind of structure for a long time and it’s through him that it’s come to fruition,” Oda said.
“This is the first addition since 1972, when the museum opened, so we’re creating a new educational component that we’ve really needed for a long time. It’s going to change the way we do things out here at the Johnston Farm.”
Fred R. Smith, department manager of architectural services for the Ohio Historical Society, said the project also has helped forge a bond between the OHS and the Friends Council. “I’m really looking forward to continuing that relationship and developing it,” Smith said.
Earlier this year, the Johnston Farm Friends Council launched a campaign to raise funds for the new facility, partnering with the Piqua Community Foundation to be the fiscal agent for the campaign. The foundation will collect the monies and place them in an account for the project.
“Our goal was $100,000 and we’re doing quite well,” said Margaret French, chair of fundraising for the Friends Council. “We’re so heartened and grateful that the community has stepped up and supported this project. More than 140 individuals, corporations and foundations have contributed to the project.”
Donations to the project include $42,000 from the Ohio Historical Society, $25,000 from the Paul Duke Foundation and $2,000 from Vectren.
The Friends Council continues to pursue contributions locally, regionally and nationally. To become a supporter of the project, contact the Piqua Community Foundation at (937) 615-9080 or Hite at (937) 773-2522.