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, the Republican Party was conceived by concerned, disaffected citizens in numerous places across the northern tier of states. Its genesis was truly grass roots. The Party’s rural “birthplace” is the best place from which to showcase 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 a national historic landmark.
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 unfortunately 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 the 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 $24 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.