Rochester, N.Y. – Nearly 10,000 people visited the Susan B. Anthony House last year, about 30 percent more than came a few years ago. The house, which can only hold a few dozen people at a time, is feeling a space crunch.
“We’d like a facility that could have at least 250 people at once,” said Susan B. Anthony House President and CEO Deborah Hughes. “If we have a busload of people, we have to split them up into two groups.”
Building a visitors center on Madison St. next to the Susan B. Anthony House is out of the question, because it’s a historic preservation district. The museum is eyeing land a block away on Jefferson Ave. A visitors center would allow for concessions and more bathrooms, which are inadequate at the Madison St. site.
The museum is formulating a plan for the visitors center, which could cost between $2 million and $10 million. The museum hopes to have it open by 2020, a year celebrating the anniversary of the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote, the 75th anniversary of the museum and the 200th birthday of Anthony.
Funding could be a challenge, although the museum has made strides in growing its revenue. In 2006, the museum brought in less than $200,000. This year, it’s on track to bring in more than $500,000.
Meanwhile, restoration of Anthony’s 150-year-old house is nearing completion. The museum has used old photographs to duplicate the way rooms looked when Anthony lived there. The house had wall paper created to match wallpaper seen in old pictures. The museum is continuously acquiring artifacts, such as the cross-stitch Anthony made of her sibling’s names when she was a child.
The women’s rights icon lived in the house for much of her life. She was arrested for voting in the front parlor and died in an upstairs bedroom. The house was a headquarters of women’s rights and other social and political activism.
“This is a place where it really happened. This is a place where people can come connect with the artifacts that were personally important to Susan B. Anthony and most importantly get inspired by the story in ways that are meaningful today,” said Hughes.
Hughes is hoping the museum’s efforts will lead to corporate sponsorships and a higher profile. The museum plans to one day use the name “National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House.”
Hughes also hopes to reach more Rochesterians.
“We are so grateful that Rochester likes to own and claim Susan B. Anthony,” Hughes said. “We wish that people would also talk about the Susan B. Anthony museum and Susan B. Anthony house.”