Construction and Design
The first phase of the newly constructed Warren G. Harding Presidential Library & Museum was finished in the spring of 2021. with the dedication of the museum taking place in September of 2021. The building was designed by Ohio History Connection architects Fred Smith and Beth McFarlane, with consultation from Korda/Nemeth Engineering of Columbus, and input from GPD Group architects, Marion.
The first phase encompasses the public spaces of the building: a lobby, gift shop, event space, exhibit gallery, catering kitchen, collections storage for historic objects, restrooms and storage. The second phase, will add a wing for administrative offices, conference room, research center and secure stacks room. The stacks will house the massive Harding Presidential Papers. With completion of both phases, the building will be 12,000 square feet. A roofed terrace, grass courtyard, garden areas and parking lot will highlight the landscaped grounds.
The project broke ground in March 2019 after several years of planning. Marker, Inc., of Columbus and Bellefontaine, was the construction manager.
A one-floor plan was chosen, providing ease of mobility for visitors and to ensure that the building did not overwhelm the adjacent Harding Home. The white brick, chosen for the exterior, brings to mind the White House, U.S. Capitol and Ohio Statehouse, all of which had connections with Warren Harding. Harding was an Ohio senator, Ohio lieutenant governor, U.S. senator and President of the United States. The stately columns surrounding the entrance and lining the terrace tie in those government buildings, as well as the porch of his nearby home and his final resting place, the Harding Memorial. Details abound. Stone inserts above each window feature the monogram used by the Hardings on their linens and stationery, giving the building a personal “Harding” touch. Arches used on the interior, augmented by art deco lighting fixtures, place the building in the Hardings’ time in history. Several stained glass windows, original to the Hardings’ era, also set the mood.
The exhibit gallery, designed by the Ohio History Connection’s Bill Mahon and his design team, offers visitors the Harding story through a mix of historic objects, media, text, music and sensory experiences. The exhibits are designed so historical objects can be changed, providing repeat visitors different perspectives. An elegant event space offers a place for public programming, children’s education, temporary exhibits and private events. Of great important is the temperature- and humidity-controlled collections storage area to house more than 5,000 historical objects.
The new Harding Presidential Library and restored Harding Home opened to the general public on May 12, 2021.