News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 21, 2012

Historical Museum moving downtown to Glidden building; Glidden moving east

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A new home for the historical treasures of Vigo County will be established on Wabash Avenue in downtown Terre Haute.

The Vigo County Historical Society announced Thursday that a new home for the historical museum has been acquired. The organization has purchased the Glidden Furniture building at 929 Wabash with the intent of moving the museum collection into the landmark building.

Society executive director Marylee Hagan announced the move Thursday morning -- the day after the 90th anniversary of the Dec. 19, 1922, founding of the historical society.

“This building has served us well — but we are bulging at the seams as our collection has grown beyond the capacity of this building,” Hagan said to a group of supporters crammed inside the museum’s long-time home at 1411 S. Sixth St.

Hagan and board president Gary Greiner unveiled an architect’s rendering of the renovated front of the new location at 929 Wabash. Built in 1895 by the Ehrmann family, the location originally house the Ehrmann Manufacturing Co., which produced pants, overalls, shirts and jackets. Renowned poet Max Ehrmann worked in the family business as the company’s credit manager and attorney.

In 1940, the Ehrmann building was sold, and it housed a variety of businesses until 1970, when it became the Glidden Furniture store.

Kristie Glidden-Hitchmough told the Tribune-Star on Thursday that her family agreed to sell the Wabash Avenue building to the historical society after her father decided to retire from the family-owned furniture business.

Glidden’s Furniture will be relocating several blocks east on Wabash Avenue at the former Grandma Joy’s restaurant location near Fruitridge Avenue.

Hagan said the Glidden building fits the society’s criteria for a new location for the museum.

“The history of the building was important to us,” she said of the connection to the Ehrmann family. In a survey of patrons conducted last year, the options for a new location were ranked as historical being first choice, followed by an old building, and then new construction.

The location will also complete a triangle of downtown museums, with the Clabber Girl Museum across the street and the Children’s Museum located a block to the west.

The Ehrmann building has almost 40,000 square feet on four levels. The current museum building, built in 1868, has only 15,000 square feet of exhibit space.

“We have stuff stored in attics and under beds,” Hagan said, laughing.

She also noted that many museum patrons want to see interactive and changing displays, but the current location is able to offer only static displays.

The purchase of the Glidden building by the historical society was closed on Monday, and the purchase of the former Grandma Joy’s building was also closed on Monday. County records show the purchase price for each property as $500,000.

Glidden-Hitchmough said the prior owner of the Grandma Joy’s property graciously allowed for some renovation to commence a couple of months ago, in anticipation of the actual sale of the properties. She said the furniture store should transition next spring to its new location in a more efficient building with convenient parking.

As for the museum, Hagan said a capital campaign must now commence to raise funds for the phase 2 renovation of the new location. While a rendering of the new facade has been revealed, plans for the interior of the building remain under wraps, she said.

“We are excited, and a little scared,” she said of phase 2 of the project, “because we will have to depend on the support of the community.”

Mayor Duke Bennett commended the historical society for creating another downtown destination that will bring people downtown.

“It’s awesome that you’ve got this vision, and are willing to take this big step,” Bennett said.

Hagan said it will be late 2013 at the earliest before a move of the museum commences, and more likely 2014. Once the museum relocates, the long-time location on South Sixth Street will be sold.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or