National Women’s Hall of Fame wins Main Street grant for knitting mill project

Sarah Taddeo, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Published 9:25 a.m. ET Nov. 23, 2018 | Updated 5:14 p.m. ET Nov. 23, 2018

The National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls will soon open a new chapter with its move to the historic Seneca Knitting Mill, and the development project recently beat other U.S. preservation initiatives to win $150,000 for the build-out.

This year, the Hall is celebrating 50 years of championing the achievements of American women — a small group of whom started the Hall as young Seneca Falls residents in 1968.

After decades in a Fall Street bank building, the Hall needed more space, and organizers felt there was no better future home then the Seneca Knitting Mill, an 1844 Seneca Falls landmark laced with the history of the women who worked there through the years.

The mill’s stonework, timber interior framing and other elements needed significant renovation, and the Hall has accomplished much of the initial stabilization and restoration work since buying the building in 2007. But with four floors of interior and exhibit work still to go, the Hall continues to raise funds for the project.

This year, the Seneca Knitting Mill project was one of 20 national preservation initiatives chosen as finalists for Partners in Preservation Main Street grants. The program, a partnership between American Express, Main Street America and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, focused on sites promoting equality across the U.S.

Thanks to public votes, the project was one of 11 winning projects to receive a grant — a total $1.6 million was allocated among the sites. 

The grant will cover plaster work, cleaning, painting of original wooden stools and potentially baseboard repairs, said Betty Bayer, president of the Hall.

“We should always celebrate the fact that women’s history can outgrow a building,” said Bayer, while discussing the Seneca Knitting Mill project in October. “We’ve built a remarkable tradition and an institution, and now it’s time to say, ‘OK, let’s write the next chapter.'”

The Hall is planning its move to the mill in 2019, said Bayer.

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