Manuscript Museum Moving to Historic Building

By Eric Olson

March 5, 2013 Updated Mar 5, 2013 at 12:11 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Indiana--It is, unfortunately, one of Fort Wayne’s lesser known gems, the Karpeles Manuscript Museum…one of the most remarkable spots in the entire Midwest. Where else could you see Queen Elizabeth the First’s handwritten note to Sir Francis Drake, ordering him to sail against the Spanish Armada in 1587? Or personal letters penned by Eleanor Roosevelt, Indira Gandhi, Albert Einstein or Rosa Parks? Despite the historic attractions this museum remains hidden away in a sense. That, however is about to change.

Beginning this summer this will be the new Karpeles Manuscript Museum, the former First Church of Christ Scientist building on Fairfield Avenue…a massive, hulking palace of a structure with grand Corinthian columns, terrazzo floors, marble walls and appointments and beautiful leaded glass windows.

“This is such a great solid old building,” says museum director Lisa Olinger. “We have so many of these here in the city and it’s fantastic each time one of them gets to be repurposed and used again.”

Lisa Olinger is the director of the Karpeles Museum. She says this building, all 32-thousand square feet of it, was built in 1927, served the Christian Scientists until the mid ‘80’s and several other churches since. Besides the cavernous main assembly hall it sports an immense full basement and lots of office space. The actual museum display area will be in the lobby, by itself larger than the current museum. The rest of the building will serve other functions.

“This will allow us to do bigger things like our sister museums do across the country,” Olinger says. “Concerts, lecture series, dinner theatre kind of things. We’re looking actually for community partners who’d like space to utilize for the things that make our city as great as it is.”

Hopefully, the new address will help pull this gem of a museum out of the shadows, and into the limelight it so richly deserves. Eric Olson reporting, out in Your Country.

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