Written by: Charles A. Hyde, President and CEO, Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site
As many of our friends and neighbors are already aware, we are in the midst of a transformative $6M+ capital campaign. This campaign was envisioned from the outset to do two big things: 1) invest in preserving and enhancing the National Historic Landmark home of the 23rd president of the United States for the century ahead, and; 2) create a stunning public gateway open to all that helps amplify our mission to encourage public participation in the American system of self-government.
With over 30,000 annual visitors, we see an opportunity to build upon our local relevance and national significance as the home of an American president and become recognized as a world-class destination. That we’ve continued our climb into the top five “Things to Do” in Indianapolis on TripAdvisor user rankings suggests we’re making great progress—and more exciting plans are yet to come.
All of this work is informed by our vision to be “the most innovative, inclusive, and civically engaged presidential site in the country.” One example of how we’re bringing this to reality is the new Neighborway, which when completed in 2023 will restore east/west pedestrian and bicyclist connectivity to the neighborhood lost through the depredations of interstate construction 50 years ago. This is important for quality of life of the many residents of the Old Northside and adjacent neighborhoods, and will most directly serve our immediate neighbors in apartments and affordable housing. We’re also excited about how these improvements will enhance our grounds for Indy through signature partnerships—with the Federal Court for Naturalization Ceremonies and Marion County Election Board as a Voting Center—along with enhancing new programs and initiatives, like the Juneteenth Foodways Festival and Future Presidents of America.
So how does all of this connect to the legacy of the 23rd president? It was in a landmark speech Benjamin Harrison gave to the Chamber of Commerce after his presidency in which he famously described Indianapolis as “no mean city,” suggesting that when compared to its peers nationally it excelled in many notable ways. He continued by saying, “But the ideal city must have other excellences. It must be a city where people diligently mind their own business and the public business, and do both with a decent regard to the judgment and rights of other men; a city where there is no boss rule in anything; where all men are not brought to the measure of one man's mind or to the heel of one man's will; a city whose citizens are brave and true and generous, and who care for their own…where brains and manners, and not bank balances, give ratings to men…where the commerce in goods is great, but not greater than the exchanges of thought and of neighborly kindness. We have not realized all these things. We count not ourselves to have attained, but we follow after.”
But as admirable as these civic sentiments are, his words to friends and neighbors and thousands of well-wishers as he departed Indy for his inauguration as the 23rd President of the United States were all the more poignant. He said simply, “I love this city.”
If you talk to our staff, volunteers, board members, and supporters, you’ll hear this same refrain: like Harrison, we love our neighborhood—and we love this city!
Find out more at PresidentBenjaminHarrison.org and OldGloryNewVision.org.
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