From left: Karen Adamo and Jeanne Browne, co-presidents at The...

From left: Karen Adamo and Jeanne Browne, co-presidents at The Long Beach Historical Society on Wednesday. The society is fighting to save its 113-year-old museum, which, they say, needs urgent renovations and repairs. Credit: Danielle Silverman

The Long Beach Historical and Preservation Society faces a funding gap that could cause the organization to lose its 113-year-old museum unless it raises the money needed to repair and restore the deteriorating facility.

The coronavirus pandemic's effect on fundraising events — like the society's annual craft fair — hobbled the organization's finances and caused it to lose out on some $200,000, said society co-president Karen Adamo. Maintaining the museum costs about $70,000 annually, she said. 

The white craftsman-style house on West Penn Street, made of stucco and topped with a red-shingled roof, is the base of the society and serves as its admission-free museum, where members host historic tours and educational programs. It is also the site of the organization's archive, which preserves the 100-year history of Long Beach. 

The society has raised about $60,000 during its campaign, but is still facing a funding gap. While Adamo and co-president Jeanne Browne said the home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is inspected annually and has been deemed safe to visit, nearly $140,000 in work needs to be completed, including for the building’s 47 windows, basement floor, balcony and stucco work. Some of the door sills are rotting and the balcony is ready to crumble, Adamo said. 

"The repairs are urgent," Adamo said. "As soon as we have enough money to start the work, we will start." 

The society still owes close to $50,000 on its mortgage for the home, and the nonprofit tapped into its reserves to keep afloat over the last year, Browne said. Insurance runs around $18,000 yearly. As it stands, the society has enough money to continue operations for a year, Adamo said. 

"We’re between a rock and a hard place. … We want to be able to keep the building," Browne said. "It’s an asset to the community." 

Although the repairs and significant renovation work is the society's top priority, organization leaders also want to enhance the museum to attract visitors and members, such as the addition of Wi-Fi. 

Like many historical societies, the organization is managed by unpaid volunteers who participate as their schedule allows, which the co-presidents said can prove challenging when it comes to museum tours and educational programs. Of the more than 300 members who pay a fee to join the society, about 50 volunteer, Browne said. 

"What a sad thing it would be to lose the museum," said historical society trustee and archivist Joanne Belli. "It’s really an integral part of the community."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated the incorrect number of members for the Long Beach Historical and Preservation Society.

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