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Sultana Historical Society annouces major museum funding

Millions in donations for expansion project come in from state officials, businesses, supporters

Millions in donations for expansion project come in from state officials, businesses, supporters

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Millions in donations for expansion project come in from state officials, businesses, supporters

By JOHN RECH

[email protected]

The Sultana Disaster Museum capital campaign marked its first year with a donor appreciation luncheon at its new location at the original Marion School Gym. The Sultana Historical Preservation Society dedicated the day by announcing new donations pushing its museum development fund over the $5 million plateau.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Senator John Boozman announced contributions to the capital campaign. FedEX Corporation issued a challenge grant. HSB (Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company) secured its place as the founding supporter of the museum.

The 1865 boiler explosion on the river at Marion dooming the S.S. Sultana overloaded with northern bound emancipated Union prisoners of war provided the genesis for the 1866 founding of HSB in Hartford, Connecticut according to company president Greg Barats. The company currently stood the largest provider of equipment breakdown insurance and related inspection services in North America.

Judge John Fogleman noted Barats’ personal dedication to the preservation of the Sultana history.

“What struck me most in my conversation with Greg was not just the company support of this project but his personal commitment to it,” said Fogleman.

Barats announced a $1 million donation to SHIPS from HSB, the founding

See MUSEUM, page A3

Photo by John Rech

Civil War history buffs, donors and friends of the Sultana Historical Preservation Society, descendants of the Sultana survivors and elected officials lunched at the original Marion school gym on the anniversary of the Sultana Disaster last week. The group of 160 heard about new donations, grants and pledges for the museum designed around the gym. Organizers announced the capital campaign to develop and endow the museum reached its halfway mark at $5,000,000.

Photo by John Rech

Local enthusiast of the Sultana Disaster Museum Louis Intres (left) thanked Hartford Steam Boiler President Greg Barats for his company’s $1 million donation to seed development of the museum in the original Marion school gym. Barats tied the formation of HSB to an engineer’s investigation of the disaster and announced the gift during a luncheon on the anniversary of the boiler explosion sinking the steam ship on the river near Marion.

From page A1

donor for the soon-to-come museum. The company foundation and its quest for safety was triggered by the steam boiler explosion on the Sultana April 27, 1865, killing more than 1,100.

“We have a story, there was a group of engineers called the poly-technic group that tried to solve industrial problems,” said Barats, “so in 1866, one year after the Sultana explosion they met in Hartford, Connecticut to say this can’t happen again.”

Safety innovations followed and design improvements engineered as a result of the group’s determination. A boiler inspection and industrial insurance businesses emerged.

The HSB pledge secured the company root heritage resulting in the naming of the museum interior.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced a $250,000 allocation from her office’s consumer education and enforcement fund for the museum development at the old Marion school gym. She said the museum role in education as a venue for field trips was key to the gift.

“The old gymnasium created many memories, and the Sultana Disaster Museum will create new memories for the people in east Arkansas,” said Rutledge. “Educational experiences will be had here for kids across the country as this museum becomes a destination.”

Businessman Denny East announced a $1 million Federal Economic Development Administration Grant for the project on behalf of Senator John Boozman. An economic feasibility study projected the museum to generate a $3.5 million annual economy including $2.3 million in area wages from an average of 1,000 visitors each week. East said the museum would elevate the historical significance of the Sultana.

“The Sultana will take its place along other landmarks at Gettysburg and Vicksburg,” said East.

Judge Fogleman announced a $1 million FedEx challenge grant. FedEx pledged the money on the condition the first nine million dollars needed to seed the museum including its planned $3 million endowment fund were raised.

Mayor Frank Fogleman recapped the capital campaign fund on its first anniversary. In one year, SHIPS had raised half its goal for the museum. Last year’s giving had been highlighted by a $750,000 grant from Governor Asa Hutchinson with another $3.2 million announced donors’ appreciation luncheon last week. Those funds added to notable giving last year which included gifts from local businesses, individuals and the Fogleman and Barton Families toward the project. Last year Fogleman announced almost $2 million dollars raised. His ancestors and those of his cousins in the Barton family mounted rescue efforts scooping Sultana survivors from the river on April 27, 1865. He had revealed the pledges of the two families to donate $100,000 to the cause.

Other donors announced last year included the Marion Advertising and Promotions Commission, $500,000; Sultana Historical Preservation Society, $161,000; Premier Bank, $150,000 for the name of the orientation theater, Fidelity Bank, $100,000 for the name of the museum store; Partners Bank, $50,000; Hino Motors Manufacturing, USA, INC $40,000; Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad, $25,000; Holly Chevrolet. $25,000; Robinson family $20,000; City of Helena- West Helena $10,000; Union Pacific Railroad (UP), $10,000; History Commission $7,150; David and Francis Wallace, $6,000; Charlie Lowrance, $5,000; Eddie Hardin & Chris Slaughter, $5,000; Entergy Arkansas. $5,000.

Mayor Frank Fogleman provided the grand total to date.

“As you heard almost $5 million has been raised by donations or pledges thus far,” said Fogleman, “with $2,000,000 of it local. We need to thank the generosity of the Marion School District for giving us a far greater facility than we ever envisioned for the scope of our project. We think we are about halfway there.”

All donations to the Sultana Historical Preservation Society 501(c)3 are tax deductible. Donations may be made online at www.sultana disastermuseum.com.

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