A Cultural Heritage Center is taking shape on Main Street in Keene, and an important milestone has been reached in its development. On February 2, 2018, the Historical Society of Cheshire County acquired the Bruder House, a brick dwelling built in 1839 that is located adjacent to the Wyman Tavern. The building will become a welcome center and educational venue for the Historical Society.
The purchase of the Bruder House is the culmination of a process that began five years ago when the Trustees of the Historical Society decided that more space was needed to accommodate our expanded range of educational and cultural programs. Early on there was talk about building an addition at the Wyman Tavern, but it became apparent that an addition might compromise the architectural character of the Tavern. Then the Trustees became aware that Keene State College might be willing to sell the Bruder House, which was perfectly situated to integrate with Wyman Tavern in a Cultural Heritage Center Campus.
Extensive renovations will need to take place at the Bruder House in the coming months. The Society is working with David V. Scully Architects of Keene and Ingram Construction Company of Swanzey to finalize plans for the project. The work will include creation of classroom and meeting space, storage space, a covered porch, an outdoor function area, and a walkway connected to the Tavern paved with commemorative bricks.
The purchase of the Bruder House was made with proceeds from the Society’s recently completed capital fund campaign — Investing in Our History, Enhancing Our Future. More than 215 individuals, couples, private companies, and foundations contributed to the campaign, as did the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program. The capital campaign also raised funds for the historical rehabilitation of the Wyman Tavern in 2016, and improvements to the Society’s headquarters the Ball Mansion that are expected to be completed in 2019.
The vision for a Cultural Heritage Center Campus is focused on providing diverse activities that will attract more first time and repeat visitors and create the next generation of Cheshire County history students. The Society plans to accomplish this by addressing a well-documented need for educational experiences that provide relevance, sense of place, and civic engagement.
The Cultural Heritage Center will offer opportunities for people of all ages to develop ways of thinking about local history and its relevance to their lives today. They will be able to engage in local history, art, and culture in a way that helps them become full participants within their community. They can use history as a way of addressing problems that they face in their lives and their communities. Their participation could inspire them to get involved, pursue a new interest, share what they have learned, or preserve and promote community-based cultural heritage. We envision that the number of visitors to the Historical Society could double as a result of the expansions in facilities and programs.