Barnum Museum awarded $500,000 Save America's Treasures grant
The Barnum Museum in Bridgeport has received an impressive national grant for the next step of its ongoing restoration and repairs.
City and state leaders were on hand Wednesday as Barnum Museum's executive director Kathleen Maher called the money a big step forward in what's been a very long disaster recovery process.
"I am thrilled and privileged to announce the museum has been awarded a prestigious $500,000 Save America's Treasures grant from the National Park Service," she announced.
The federal funding means the historic Barnum Museum can move ahead with repairing and restoring 79 windows.
Completed in 1893, the building is considered an architectural treasure and a jewel of the city. It sustained major damage from an EF-1 tornado in 2010 that was followed by Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.
"It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and it was elevated to national significance in 2010; it was that elevation that made Barnum Museum eligible for the Save America's Treasures grant," Maher says.
The award underscores the importance of preserving history. The museum honors Bridgeport's most famous resident, who made his mark well beyond the city.
"PT Barnum - amazing, amazing, guy. Way ahead of his time in terms of being an abolitionist; people forget. everybody thinks he's the circus guy, right? He was an abolitionist, he fought for women's equality, he was the mayor of Bridgeport, he was a state legislator - a remarkable political figure," says Rep. Jim Himes.
Elinor Biggs, Barnum's great-great-great granddaughter, calls this grant extremely significant to getting the building structurally sound and secure.
"His legacy is incredibly important because it's a person who can't leave the American landscape in terms of history and children should be learning about PT Barnum, not just in Bridgeport but throughout the country," she says.
Biggs says the museum previously drew people from all over. It's been closed since the start of the pandemic - the latest bump in what's been a long road to restoration.
"If I know one thing for sure, the show will go on," says Maher.
The museum started doing virtual programming last year after closing. You can check out it’s YouTube channel.