Historic Deerfield museum launches $10M campaign

Historic Deerfield

The Stebbins House, built 1799. Image courtesy of Historic Deerfield

DEERFIELD, Mass. (AP) – A Massachusetts museum that preserves the story of Colonial New England has launched a $10 million fundraising campaign to help save its extensive collection and improve the visitor experience.

Historic Deerfield’s “America’s Town, America’s Story” campaign launched this week consists of three major components meant to shape its future – preservation, restoration and visitor engagement.

The goal is to raise $1.1 million to maintain the historic Stebbins House that dates to 1799; $3.5 million to expand and extend the museum’s educational reach; and $5.4 for its endowment.

The museum says many objects in its collection are seeing the effects of age, use, pollution and a changing climate.

The museum founded in 1952 includes 12 antique houses dating to 1730 and collections of regional furniture, silver, textiles and other decorative arts.

Asa Stebbins likely hired one of America’s first architects, Asher Benjamin, to build his house in 1799 – the first brick house built in Deerfield and the surrounding region. It features a revolutionary “flying staircase,” an elaborate molded plaster ceiling, moldings inspired by early Greek and Roman design, and decorative wall treatments – details that make it one of Historic Deerfield’s most popular houses.

While well maintained, the house was last restored in the 1950s by Historic Deerfield founders Henry and Helen Flynt, and time has taken its toll. Deterioration brought on by use, age, and environmental conditions has resulted in physical damage to the building’s structure and finishes. Modern techniques and technology now provide the museum with an unparalleled opportunity to study the building, evaluate what can be learned from it, and develop repairs and improvements so that the Stebbins family stories can be brought to light in more accurate surroundings.

“The Asa Stebbins House — a ‘trophy house’ when it was new — is a revolutionary building that deserves to be preserved for future generations,” Historic Deerfield President Philip Zea said. “This campaign will enable us to stabilize the structure and to better tell the many fascinating stories hidden inside.”

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