Republican Museum of Southwest Florida opens
It’s been called The Grand Olde Party (GOP) and the Party of Lincoln, and with the opening of a facility dedicated to the history of the Republican Party, people will get a chance to learn why.
Numerous local Republican dignitaries came to the RE/MAX building in Fort Myers Wednesday to cut the ribbon on the new Republican Museum of Southwest Florida, one of just two such museums in the United States.
The state representatives, senators and members of the Lee County Commission were not only guests, but many of them were also donors, along with countless members of the community for the project that took six months and thousands of dollars to get started.
Patricia Baldwin, director of the museum and member of the Lee Republican Women Federated, which financed the project, said that after the recent election, the history of the Republican Party was being diminished.
“We thought in the space we have we can create a museum in an effort to educate people of all ages about the history of the Republican Party,” Baldwin said, who previously worked in a museum.
Currently, the museum has pictures of the 19 Republican presidents the country’s had since the party started in 1854, as well as the Abolitionists who worked with the party to end slavery.
The plan for the future will include larger exhibits and to go in many different directions, but right now, the object is to start small, with things including the Civil War and other subjects kids would be familiar with.
One of the attractions is a pipe and stovepipe hat for visitors to take pictures with.
State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto said the army of volunteers has done a great job getting things started.
“Doris (Cortese) and her team of volunteers number in the hundreds and they do so year round. They highlight all the wonderful things, including the women who helped shape Republican ideals,” Benacquisto said.
Among those who came included County Commissioner Brian Hamman, who was pleased local residents could come and learn about the party’s history.
“I’m proud of our party and being able to celebrate our history,” Hamman said. “Voters see the conservative principals of the party work, limited government and keeping it out of our lives, preserving our individual liberties, they work because they make our lives better.”
State Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-76) said he’s a history buff and found all the pictures and historical facts very informative.
“This is a great way to get people involved during the off-season. It’s our job to get people elected and this is a great way to do it,” Caldwell said.
The event included recognition of those who donated their treasure to make this museum possible. That included County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass, who gave Cortese a check during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
There were also guided tours of the 2,700-square-foot facility, which is about 90 percent finished.
Cortese, president of the Lee Republican Women Federated, said its been six months of hard work and worth every moment.
“A lot of research and a lot of people put a lot of time into it and we’re so excited it’s open. It will be so great for the public to come in and educate them, to help kids learn about the history of our country and of the Republican Party,” Cortese said.
The Republican Museum of Southwest Florida will be open Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
To schedule a tour, contact the museum at 239-936-8779.
The museum is at 7910 Summerlin Lakes Drive in Fort Myers.