Since our last Urbana Daily Citizen update in June, the Johnny Appleseed Foundation has continued its diligent efforts to bring the Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum to life again after its long dormancy caused by the pandemic and closing of Urbana University in March of 2020.
In June of 2021, the JA Foundation was able to purchase Browne Hall where the museum had been located since 2018. Soon it will again display the museum’s collection which had been in storage since the shutdown. Once again, it will be able to educate visitors about the life and lessons that make Johnny Appleseed a legend and true folk hero, as well as a significant contributor to local history.
Located at 518 College Way, Browne Hall is a beautiful, historic building in its own right. It was built by Dr. Thomas Moses in 1875 as his private residence. He was a Cincinnati physician, who like John Chapman, was of the Swedenborgian faith. He served as a faculty member at Urbana University and later as president. After his retirement to Waltham, Mass., his home remained a private residence for a time. A few years after his death in 1917, John James, who gave the original acreage for the college, re-purchased the home, and donated it to Urbana University to be used for “educational purposes.”
Now, thanks to the amazing generosity of a major anonymous donor and Franklin University’s willingness to significantly reduce the purchase price, total roof and gutter replacement was completed in late September and work is about to begin on needed masonry repair by historic restoration experts.
In July, area Scout troops assisted in sorting and moving stored items to new locations in the building and enjoyed a pizza lunch on the grounds.
Landscaping work is in progress, with planning for a small apple orchard featuring “authentic” Johnny Appleseed trees, a picnic area and a small children’s park and playground relocated from Hilliard.
A local firm was engaged to design new signage for the museum and is now almost completed.
With the major exterior concerns for the building and grounds being largely addressed, the focus has now turned to the interior needs, which include hiring a design firm to develop an exciting and meaningful experience for visitors of all ages, which will tell the story of Johnny’s life and times.
Upon reopening, the JA Museum will continue to house the world’s most significant and complete collection of information about Johnny Appleseed, making its extensive research collection available again to be used by historians and scholars.
As a result of the work of our museum reorganization committee and consultation with regional museum experts, a search committee was formed to identify and hire a qualified professional to “bring the museum to life” by working with the Johnny Appleseed Foundation board, a selected design firm, and other contractors to complete this process.
There is still much work ahead of us in preparing to reopen to the public. The Foundation is now projecting a spring 2022 opening but may also host pre-opening events for the community prior to the “grand opening.”
$50,000 matching fund campaign ongoing
How to contribute:
To help cover the costs of reopening, the same generous anonymous donor has pledged to match individual gifts to The Johnny Appleseed Museum and Educational Center, dollar for dollar, up to $50,000. This campaign is still ongoing. The Johnny Appleseed Foundation is a 501c(3) charitable organization, so gifts are tax-deductible.
Checks may be sent to: The Johnny Appleseed Foundation, P.O. Box 799, Urbana OH 43078.
One can donate and learn more about The Johnny Appleseed Museum and Educational Center reopening by going to its website: www.johnnyappleseedmuseum.org.
The Johnny Appleseed Foundation also has a GoFundMe page, where one’s gift will be matched. https:// au.gofundme.com/f/ save-the-johnny-appleseed – museum
The Johnny Appleseed Foundation History
In 1997, The Johnny Appleseed Foundation, for many years based at the Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio, was re-incorporated in Urbana, Ohio in order to raise the public and private funds with which to create the first museum wholly devoted to Chapman’s legacy: The Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum. The museum collection, originally displayed in Bailey Hall on the Urbana University campus, was relocated to the campus gateway at Browne Hall in 2018.
Urbana University’s connection to John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman goes back to the middle decades of the 19th century, when Chapman – woodsman, orchardist, entrepreneur and Swedenborgian missionary – encouraged the founding of a college to prepare young men and women to spread the “good news straight from Heaven” he found in Swedenborg’s writings. Urbana University was the fruit of that encouragement, as the apple was the fruit of his orchards.
In 2014, Urbana University, then in dire financial straits, was acquired by Franklin University as a branch campus. Franklin reported that it invested roughly $30 million in new or improved programs and facilities at Urbana University over the next six years; but when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the spring of 2020, and the state of Ohio temporarily closed all college campuses, Franklin, fearing further losses, permanently closed the institution.
The Johnny Appleseed Foundation Mission states: The Johnny Appleseed Foundation exists to support and further the public’s awareness and understanding of John Chapman (also known as Johnny Appleseed).
The Johnny Appleseed Foundation provides resources that support the Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum.
The Johnny Appleseed Society
Nearly three decades ago, Urbana University faculty and friends came together, in what would become the Johnny Appleseed Society, to spark interest in creating a museum dedicated to the life and work of John Chapman.
For information about the Johnny Appleseed Society, contact Jeff Taylor, PO Box 93, Urbana, OH 43078 [email protected]
Betsy Coffman is president of the Johnny Appleseed Foundation.