Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum view from drone

The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum has received a $500,000 award for roof repairs from the Save America’s Treasures Grants Program. This photo shows the museum during the 2017 arrival of The Great Race in Auburn.

AUBURN — A $500,000 award from the Save America’s Treasures Grants Program will help repair the roof of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.

“This federal grant is incredibly huge news, since it is so large, sites must be National Historic Landmarks, and successful funding of the grant is typically 20% awarded out of all applications,” said Brandon J. Anderson, executive director and CEO of the museum.

“We have been waiting since January for news on this grant and are so ecstatic to share it with the public,” Anderson said Wednesday.

The museum will match the grant with private donations to pay for the $1.1 million estimated cost of the project. It will replace the 12,000-square-foot roof and install a new heating, ventilating and air conditions system with controls.

The roof was last replaced in 1974, the year the museum opened, Anderson said.

“We’ve had every roofer you can think of come out here. It is beyond serviceable life. It can no longer be patched,” he said.

Museum staff members are using more than 80 buckets to catch leaks throughout the building’s third floor.

“We actually have to arrange the cars and artifacts around the leaks. That’s not an issue that any museum should have, so this is so important for us to take care of,” Anderson said. Leaking water is damaging the building by pushing bricks outward and plaster inward.

Air handling units on the building’s roof, installed in 1988, have become obsolete and are controlled by out-of-date computer software.

“We take care of it so well, we’ve made things last beyond their useful lives,” Anderson said about the building.

Plans call for the project to begin in March and be complete by September 2022.

The museum will remain open throughout the construction, although some exhibits may be moved temporarily.

“We are now in a place where we can actively begin work — that exciting part where people can actually see that a difference is being made and that their generous donations are being used for exactly the purpose that they gave them,” Anderson said.

The grant brings the museum to the halfway point of its $5 million Framing Our Future capital campaign to preserve the building.

An engineering study of the building’s needs identified stopping water infiltration as the first priority. After the roof replacement, the museum will focus on restoration of plaster, repointing of masonry and repairs to its original metal-frame windows.

“We have consistently done work to keep our building in the best possible shape, however this roof project is beyond the scope of our cyclical maintenance budget,” Anderson said.

The Save America’s Treasures Grants Program is provided by the Historic Preservation Fund, administered by the National Park Service, Department of Interior. It uses revenue from Outer Continental Shelf oil leases.

Grants are available for places of national significance that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or as National Historic Landmarks. The museum qualifies on both counts.

Applications for grants are judged on national significance, severity of threat and feasibility.

The museum becomes the 12th Indiana project to be funded by the grant program, which began in 1999. This year, the National Park Service awarded $15.5 million in Save America’s Treasures grants to help fund 49 projects in 29 states, including preservation of the Rose Bowl football stadium in California.

“The fact that we received this grant at the award ceiling of $500,000 … means that this project is obviously so important that it has received further national attention,” Anderson said.

The museum is housed in the Auburn Automobile Co.’s art deco style administration building, which opened in 1930. A community effort purchased and restored the building as a museum that opened in July 1974, featuring classic cars built by the auto company. An addition was completed in 2001.

Anderson said the museum’s mission is “to take care of this National Historic Landmark building for the next 100 years, so it’s here for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.”

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