Where to build the museum was a weighty question. After significant historical, marketing, and economic research, Ripon, Wisconsin, stood out as the logical place.
Grass Roots. Unlike other national political parties, our Party was conceived by concerned, disaffected citizens in numerous places across the northern tier of states. Its genesis was truly grass roots – something we must loudly advertise as an important component of our history. The Party’s birthplace is the best place from which to make this point.
The Party’s Birthplace. Several places make strong birthplace claims and the museum will ensure that each is celebrated for its role in the Party’s creation. However, of those making claims: Jackson, Michigan; Ripon, Wisconsin; and Exeter, New Hampshire have the most preserved historical Republican story lines. Uniquely, though, Ripon is the only one of the three that has also preserved its Republican history in a tangible, natural setting.
Recognizing this unique combination of story and preserved setting, in 1972 the National Park Service, guardians of highly coveted National Historic Landmark status, designated Ripon’s Little White Schoolhouse as the “Birthplace of the Republican Party” and consequently, a national historic landmark (one of only 2,000 such landmarks nationwide).
Other Claims. Exeter, New Hampshire and Jackson, Michigan have no such designations and indeed, Jackson’s request for national registry status was denied because its site has been “completely obliterated” – a characterization contained in the Michigan Historical Commission’s National Register nominating application for the Jackson site.
Although arguably there are more readily accessible places to build a national museum, Ripon, most importantly, is the right place history, messaging, and marketing wise. Additionally, the city’s nationally-recognized college, established by several of our Party’s founders, is a key ingredient that would help the museum and archive’s scholarly components credibly function.
National Historical Landmark. Because of Ripon’s unique qualities, the Museum Foundation purchased the land directly surrounding the “Birthplace of the Republican Party” National Historic Landmark and is now seeking support nationwide to undertake the museum and archive project. Expected cost is around $18 million to design, construct, and operate the facility for an initial two years. The Republican National Committee, acknowledging the national historic significance of the museum endeavor, has graciously provided its historical archive for inclusion in the project. The first shipment arrived in Ripon in June 2016.
The Republican party website captures the party’s genesis thusly:
“It began in a little schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854. A small group of dedicated abolitionists gathered to fight the expansion of slavery and they gave birth to a Party dedicated to freedom and equal opportunity.”
“The name “Republican” was chosen, alluding to Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party and conveying a commitment to the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
“The Party was formally organized in July 1854 by thousands of anti-slavery activists at a convention in Jackson, Michigan. And it was no accident that two years later, in 1856, the first Republican National Convention took place in Philadelphia, where the Constitution was written.”