HUTCHINSON ISLAND — The Elliott Museum board of directors announced Wednesday evening a donation valued at $10 million from the Elliott R. Donnelley family, the largest gift in the museum’s 53-year history and believed to be the largest single gift ever in Martin County.
The announcement came during a donor appreciation event previewing the upcoming grand opening of the 48,000-square-foot, environmentally friendly museum Sunday after a $20 million reconstruction project.
“This gift is a significant investment in the future of not only our museum, but the entire region,” said Scott Baratta, chairman of the museum’s capital campaign, at the event. “The early commitment by the Donnelley family inspired our volunteer leadership and propelled our ability to bring this project to fruition.”
The Donnelley gift includes about $8 million for the reconstruction campaign, $1.2 million for operation support and 55 Ford Model A vehicles valued at $800,000 from Elliott Donnelley’s personal collection for the museum’s “Wheels of Change” exhibit of antique automobiles.
“Mr. Donnelley is passionate about the Model A,” Jennifer Esler, the museum president and CEO said in a prepared statement. “He loved the story these vehicles told about American progress — invention, commerce, mobility, and of course, fun.”
The new Elliott focuses on how innovation and ingenuity have transformed, and continue to transform, both Martin County and the world beyond.
Donnelley, 75, is the great-grandson of Richard Robert Donnelley, the founder of R.R. Donnelley and Sons Company, which, according to encyclopedia.com, is the largest commercial printing company in North America. The Chicago-based company has sales of more than $5 billion, has 40 manufacturing facilities around the world and is used by eight of the top 10 publishers in the United States.
He also is the head of Model A’s Inc., a nonprofit in Palm Beach County, and founded Lantana Boat Yard in Lantana, also in Palm Beach County.
“We are excited to play a role in the new Elliott Museum and help prepare this 53-year-old community resource for the future,” Shawn M. Donnelley, Elliott Donnelley’s daughter, said in a prepared statement. “My father spent a lifetime building this collection. He wished to preserve his vehicles so that future generations might learn their stories. Martin County, and the Elliott Museum, is the perfect place for his collection and our gift.”
Before the Donnelley gift, the largest charitable donation in Martin County was $5 million from the Frances Langford Foundation to Martin Medical Center’s heart center, which was named after Langford.
In her lifetime and through her Frances Langford Foundation after her death, she has donated more than $29 million in Martin County, including $3 million for the construction of the new Elliott Museum.
Langford’s legacy is honored with the museum’s Outrigger Café, which includes memorabilia from the restaurant of the same name Langford owned in Jensen Beach.
The Elliott also received a $500,000 grant from the state Department of Cultural Affairs.
“While we have made spectacular progress, we continue to work hard to raise the funds needed to complete all of the different components of our extensive exhibits,” said Esler, adding that $2.5 million is needed to complete the final phase of the capital campaign.
Walter Woods, chairman of the museum’s board of directors, said the facility is expected to attract 50,000 visitors a year, contributing $1.2 million to the local economy.