Ridge House Museum nearing one year of doors closed

·3 min read

A local museum has been closed to the public for nearly a year.

Ridge House Museum is open the first day of spring to the first day of autumn and December 1-23, 7 days a week, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. However, due to COVID-19, the museum has remained closed, leaving some local residents concerned.

Located in the original residence of Mr. and Mrs. George Mulholland, the modest middle-class family home in Ridgetown was constructed in 1875 for $200. Like most builds in rural areas at this time, the house was designed as a typical Gothic revival home with an asymmetrical floor plan, front and side porches and a single front gable above the centre front door.

“The concept is that it is to be a living museum, which mirrors the life of a middle-class family in the late 1800s,” said Marlee Robinson, who joined the museum Advisory Committee more than five years ago.

As Ridgetown was gearing up for the town’s 1975 Centennial Celebration, the Ridgetown Rotary Club purchased the house as their Centennial project. With the guidance of the Ridgetown & District Historical Society, the Ridge House Museum was born.

Inside the house, period furnishings and accessories are displayed to reveal to visitors the values and lifestyles of a middle-class family in the growing town of Ridgetown. Guests experience the customs and values of 1875 through interactive tours, interpretive programs, and special events carried out by professional costumed staff. In addition to the restored home, the Ridge House also boasts a temporary exhibition space highlighting historically significant events, people, or aspects of our community from all time periods.

Despite the many things offered at the museum, the museum has remained closed to the public for nearly a year. Many are saying the usage is not high enough to continue to keep its doors open.

But according to Ward 3 Councillor John Wright, who sits on the museum committee, this isn’t the year to judge that because of COVID-19.

Wright said he understands the numbers have been low, but the museum can survive with help from the local community.

“The museum needs to get back to having volunteers,” said Wright. “Having a full-time Chatham-Kent staff isn’t the answer for running the museum. The cost is killing it. They need some volunteers.”

Wright said the museum is much like a library, a service that will not make money but benefit the community.

“You shouldn’t take your tourism out of your counties,” said Wright. “You, you start taking one tourism, and you take a couple of other tourism things out, and you’re telling people that Chatham-Kent is not open.”

According to Robinson, there are some repairs needed to be done in the museum as well.

“My hope is that we get some upgrades and repairs done outside,” said Robinson.

She added the fence needs to be fixed, and the front porch needs to be repainted as well as attention needed for flaking on the south side of the museum.

“I would like it to be open, staffed by someone who actually spends time in the museum and gets active programming that appeals to a wide range of people, not just local people, but tourists when eventually they start coming back,” said Robinson.

Wright said regardless of how many volunteers the museum has or how big of a budget there may be, it comes down to “use it or lose it.”

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News