|Haizlip Studio rendering of new museum features replica smokestacks (Courtesy SHPS)|
It never happened.
“The survivors of this tragedy and those family members of those that died deserve better,” John Fogleman, one of the leaders of the effort to build a permanent museum about the disaster, said Tuesday in Marion, Ark., during a capital campaign kickoff event.
The Sultana Historical Preservation Society, city officials and others hope to raise $7.5 million to make the dream happen. They got a big boost during the event: Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the state will provide $750,000 over two years.
“I believe that this is a good investment for this region. It is a good investment for the state of Arkansas. It is an important marker that we need to have in history,” the governor told the crowd in the former high school gymnasium-auditorium that will house exhibits and serve as a community space.
|Sultana artifacts and memorabilia (Courtesy of Gene Salecker)|
Accounts of the tragedy – the worst maritime loss in U.S. history -- were overshadowed by headlines about the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and the pursuit of John Wilkes Booth.
Hutchinson made note of that Tuesday, saying the tragedy garnered only a few lines in The New York Times. “This has never gotten the historical attention it would ordinarily receive.”
The governor said besides honoring the dead and their descendants, the museum will tell the story of Arkansans who rushed to the river to help in the rescue and treatment of the wounded.
The Fogleman and Barton families, descendants of local men who were part of that effort, will donate $100,000 for the new museum.
Gene Salecker, a Sultana author and lecturer, said the renovated space will be much larger than the current museum a few blocks away. “The new museum will be located in the center of the city along a major roadway, near city hall and the city library, and will encompass over 22,000 square feet.”
Before Tuesday’s campaign kickoff, Fogleman told the Civil War Picket the project had received donations and pledges totaling $1.2 million. “Under our contract with the City of Marion we may start construction once we have raised in donations and commitments for donations totaling $3 million.”
Among the speakers was architect Mary Haizlip with Haizlip Studio in Memphis, which is designing the facility. She touted its proximity to I-55 and expected contribution to tourism and economic development in the entire Delta.
|This exhibit tells of events leading up to explosion (Courtesy of SHPS)|
Haizlip Studio’s design includes smokestacks meant to evoke images of the Sultana.
“The smokestacks are going to be an iconic beacon that will be visible along Military Road to further draw in people to share the experiences,” Haizlip said.
Tuesday’s event was long on both memory of the disaster and the potential dollars that could come to the region. Officials are hoping up to 50,000 patrons come annually.