LIGONIER — Citing the need for additional revenue, the Ligonier Public Library Board of Trustees has decided to sell a property with historical significance: the former Ahavath Sholom synagogue on Main Street.
Since 1989, the library has owned and maintained the property, which operates as a museum for the Ligonier Historical Society.
The library is completing a $1.8 million renovation and has encountered unexpected project costs.
Library Director Jerry Nesbitt said the board is finding ways to cut library costs and bring in revenue. Selling the museum is one way members hope to get additional funding.
The board also feels the library can’t adequately maintain the museum, Nesbitt said.
The library shut off water, sewage and telephone lines at the museum, and only maintain gas and electric lines.
“It’s very difficult to raise funds to support the museum,” he said.
The library bought the building in 1989 after community groups expressed interest in promoting tourism in Ligonier.
“They thought the logical owner would be the library,” Nesbitt said.
The museum has Jewish artifacts and a large collection of historical Ligonier items. Many of the pieces have been donated by local community members, and when they visit they like to see the artifacts on display.
The museum is open May through October, on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 p.m. The Ligonier Historical Society staffs the museum on Saturday and Sunday, and the library covers Tuesday. The library leaves a number for visitors to call once they arrive.
The Ligonier Jewish community built the Ahavath Sholom temple in September 1889. After the last Jewish services were held in 1954, various church congregations occupied the building.
In September, the Ligonier Historical Society celebrated the building’s 125th anniversary with the unveiling of a permanent Indiana historical marker. The temple was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
Wendy Soltz, a doctoral candidate in American Jewish history at Ohio State University, was instrumental in getting the Indiana historical marker. Stoltz operates a blog about the museum at ligoniertemple.blogspot.com.
Ahavath Sholom is one of only two remaining 19th-century synagogues in Indiana, according to Soltz.
Nesbitt said the library is working with Indiana Landmarks to ensure the property is sold to a group or individual that will maintain the building’s historical significance.
“We want to keep the collection there if possible,” Nesbitt said.
The board is required to seek two appraisals of the property before it can sell, Nesbitt said. The library also will have to hold a public hearing.