Heritage, Volume 10, Number 3, Summer 1992 Page: 11
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renovation under the supervision of preservation
architect Killis Almond of San
Antonio. Almond was enlisted to help
local architect Rick Weatherl prepare architectural
plans for the Grace. The plans
provided a construction estimate of $3.8
million. Another $1 million was needed
for an operating endowment. Fundraising
efforts switched into high gear.
Contributions to the Grace varied in
size and source. Board members of A.P.L.
and the Museums of Abilene individually
pledged the first $60,000. Jerry Love approached
the City with a request for
downtown revitalization funds in exchange
for an easement on the facade. City Council
approved $750,000 for the cause. Other
local efforts included special events such as
the 80th birthday celebration for the Grace
and the sale of "Amazing Grace" tee-shirts.
Members of local teachers' groups pledged
$150 individually during a three-year span.
School children were given pledge cards to
fill with coins totalling $2. In all, more
than $300,000 was raised from individual
Mary Gill, the secretary of the committee
and later Museum president, directed
the foundation grants requests, a job made
easier by the local success.
Dodge Jones Foundation in Abilene
provided advice and credibility, as well as
financial support. Committee members
personally visited staff at targeted foundations
to sell the Grace idea. Most were
receptive to a project that now had community
support, cooperation, and that addressed
issues of historic preservation,
downtown revitalization, and promoted the
visual arts, children's education, and history.
The Meadows Foundation and the
The Historical Museum at the Grace Cultural Center focues on the early 1900s development of Abilene.
Photo provided courtesy of Abilene Reporter-News.
Mabee Foundation contributed $500,000
and $250,000 respectively. Other contributors
included the Fondren Foundation,
the Hobilitzelle, the Davidson Family
Charitable Foundation, the National Trust
for Historic Preservation, and the National
Endowment for the Arts.
Construction drawings were completed
and bids were submitted by construction
companies. The building committee then
began work cutting $250,000 from the
project. A contract was awarded to H & G
Construction of Abilene. The official
ground breaking was held in October of
From the beginning, it was decided not
to provide public tours of the vacant, vandalized
Grace Hotel. Committee members
agreed that it required a considerable
amount of imagination to envision a fine
arts and cultural center within the eyesore
that once had been a thriving hotel. The
public had little clue of the promise the
building held. Not only did architect Rick
Weatherl apply his skills to construct a
luxurious monument to the past, he wedded
modem technology and preservation
techniques to create a functional state-ofthe-art
museum building. The museum's
climate-controlling geo-thermal cooling
and heating system is one example of the
unseen beauty of the Grace.
The development of the Grace Cultural
Center was not without its negative moments,
and frustration sometimes ran high
among committee members. The day the
doors of the restored Grace opened, however,
all negative thoughts were left behind,
even by those who had expressed
The weekend of February 14,1992, the
Grace Cultural Center opened its doors to
the world. More than 600 patrons attended
the Saturday evening gala that
raised $30,000 for the Museum. Another
large crowd witnessed the ribbon cutting
ceremony on Sunday, and 1,600 people
streamed into the museums that afternoon.
The Grace Cultural Center is becoming
known for the art and cultural activities
and exhibits that are enjoyed by visitors
to the historic yet modem facility. The
Grace is a model for other communities to
learn how to put preservation into action
and as a tribute to the thousands of individuals
in Abilene who put the time, effort,
and money into the Grace Cultural Center
to make it a reality and a legacy for future
Julie Napier is a freelance writer from Abilene
who is active in historic preservation projects
HERITAGE * SUMMER 1992 11
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 10, Number 3, Summer 1992, periodical, Summer 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45419/m1/11/: accessed April 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.