The Carmel Clay History Museum Breaks Ground
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
On June 14, the Carmel Clay Historical Society broke ground on the Carmel Clay History Museum, which has been a long time in the making.
“We had always wanted a history museum and we were using that little beloved Monon Depot, which is still very special to us, but it was 950 square feet so it wasn’t conducive to a large exhibit space,” says Debbie Gangstad, executive director of the Carmel Clay Historical Society.
In January 2020, the Clay Township Board voted to fund a new three-story museum on property next to the depot. However, the global pandemic threw a wrench into that plan, and the following three years were made up of lots of starts and stops. In July 2023, however, the construction company finalized their permits, hired their subcontractors and began work on what’s expected to be a 16- to 18-month build.
“We hope to move into the space in December 2024,” Gangstad says. “We want our museum to have a lot of energy and a dynamic vibe where all ages, from children all the way through grandparents, can have a place in the museum that they enjoy.”
The first floor of the museum, open to the public, will have a large area for an exhibit or programming. One side of the first floor will also house an old mercantile/general store replication, while the other side will have a gift and coffee shop. The second floor will be made up of mostly exhibit space. The third floor will have an educational history play for children.
“We’re going to make it more of an interactive experience rather than walking in, looking at something and walking out,” Gangstad says.
The museum will be a community space, not just for members, which is why the first floor will be free for the public. Folks will have to pay a nominal entrance fee to gain access to the second and third floors.
“We’re not trying to gouge people or keep people out,” Gangstad says. “We want as many people to come as possible. We just have to charge a small fee to cover expenses.”
A rooftop area will hold 70 people, and be available for the public to reserve/rent for private parties, wedding receptions and class reunions.
As the public has learned about the museum, donations have been pouring in, including Carmel’s first post office box, pictures from the first newspaper Carmel ever had, and a neon sign that was down on the Monon Depot that weighs more than 500 pounds. Project leaders talked to the architect to ensure a strong wall in one space so they can hang it.
“We’re like a library that’s hidden our best books for 40 years,” Gangstad says. “I think the public will be surprised by the treasure trove of great items we have. The Carmel Clay History Museum will be a cultural gem right along the Monon. We love all the restaurants and art galleries in the area, but it’s also fun to learn about where you live.”
To make a donation to the museum fund, visit carmelclayhistory.org. Checks may be mailed to: Carmel Clay Historical Society, P.O. Box 4777, Carmel, IN 46082. Call 317-846-7117 to make a donation with a credit card.