Inside the SAR Museum
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The Sons of the American Revolution are planning to convert the old Fulton Conway Building on West Main Street near Eighth Street into their Center For Advancing America’s Heritage which will include the national headquarters for the organization, a museum, and extensive genealogical library.

We recently sat down with Joe Harris, executive director of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution at their current 4th and Kentucky Street location to discuss the project. He explained the group is still in the midst of a capital campaign for the new downtown facility and needs to raise $5 million more in donations before construction can start. They already have raised $3 million; about half of that was used to purchase the Fulton-Conway Building. The SAR intends to pay for the entire project with cash.

The SAR also has put its significant land holdings in Old Louisville / SoBro up for sale. The organization will use the sale proceeds to fund an endowment to keep the downtown project’s operations funded. The 1.6 acre lot on the corner of Sixth Street and Kentucky Street is listed at $1.5 million, but the organization is prepared to wait as long as necessary to sell the property.

SAR Main Street Project Renderings
SAR Main Street Project Renderings.

Its limestone headquarters will eventually be put on the market after the new building is finished, and ideally, the SAR would like to sell the properties together. (A Salvation Army property on Kentucky is also for sale, so a lot of land could be assembled in the area for a massive project.) The grassy lot once was filled with houses, but over the years they were abandoned and town down. It was once also the planned location of the museum.

One hope in the entire endeavor is for the Sons of the American Revolution to become a more prominent community player. Harris regrets that few people in Louisville know the headquarters of a national organization with research and museum resources is available to the community.  Part of the decision to move downtown was to become more visible and enhance the current offerings of the West Main Museum District. In doing so, marketing will become a larger priority for the organization.

The genealogy library already attracts people from all over the country and serves as the regional ‘hub’ for genealogical research, but with the addition of the Center for Advancing America’s Heritage, the group will offer educational outreach to schools and the public at large. Only two years ago, a formal position was created to foster the education outreach components of the organization.

Some of the features of the new facility will include “revolutionary time walk” covering important events between 1775 and 1783 as well as classroom space for early American history lessons and outreach programs about U.S. rights. The SAR already participates in citizenship ceremonies for recent immigrants.

With its larger presence in the community, the SAR is hoping the community will also help support the downtown redevelopment plans. Currently, donations mainly come from SAR members and library visitors, but the group hopes the community can step up and contribute to the project as well.

The SAR’s Old Louisville location has been open to the public since it moved there in 1979 to be closer to the country’s population center. Their museum is free and full of important artifacts in American history and the research library is available for $5 for non-members. Hopefully the community will step up and contribute to the success of the new downtown project as it will serve everyone, not just organization members.

We’ve included new, updated renderings of the project designed by local firm Architection on Market Street below.

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Branden Klayko

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden founded Broken Sidewalk in 2008 while practicing architecture in Louisville. He continued the site for seven years while living in New York City, returning to Louisville in 2016. Branden is a graduate of the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and has covered architecture, design, and urbanism for The Architect's Newspaper, Designers & Books, Inhabitat, and the American Institute of Architects.
Branden Klayko

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