The Oneida Nation of New York was an early ally of George Washington’s Continental Army, so it’s entirely fitting that the nation now comes to the aid of raising a Philadelphia museum exploring the struggle for American independence.
Two centuries ago, the Oneida brought bushels of corn to starving troops at Valley Forge. Today, they’re bringing millions of dollars — in the form of a $10 million grant announced last week at an event in Washington, cheered by officials of the American Revolution Center, the group that is developing the Museum of the American Revolution at Third and Chestnut Streets.
Drawing upon its casino and other business revenues, the Oneida Nation’s substantial gift represents another major advance for the $150 million project that will complement other Revolutionary War landmarks in the region. It will be the only major museum devoted to that military conflict.
Coming just weeks after last month’s unveiling of a dignified, red-brick building design by renowned architect Robert A.M. Stern, the Oneida pledge is a vote of confidence in both Stern’s architectural vision and the museum’s mission to bring to life the full story of the nation’s founding.
The grant moves the museum a quarter of the way toward meeting a $40 million funding challenge from longtime museum backer and ARC board chairman H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, an owner of The Inquirer’s parent company. In addition to the Lenfest and Oneida pledges, the museum set to open by early 2016 has a commitment of $30 million in state funding.
With a vast store of original artifacts, including Washington’s fully preserved campaign tent, the new museum should offer tourists ample reason to buy a ticket as well as extend their stays in Philadelphia. Along with the Oneida Nation, financial backing from other known allies with Washington’s cause would be welcomed heartily.