Urbana museum set to reopen after deal with Franklin University

Johnny Appleseed Foundation is purchasing its home from the university.

The Johnny Appleseed Education Center and Museum housed on the former Urbana University campus is set to reopen in late September after receiving substantial funds from an anonymous donor and reaching a deal with the former the university’s owner.

The museum closed in the spring of 2020 when Franklin University closed Urbana University, a branch campus, citing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Franklin University put Urbana University up for sale earlier this year.

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However, Franklin University has transferred ownership and will sell Browne Hall, home of the museum and educational center since 2018, to the Johnny Appleseed Foundation.

“The Johnny Appleseed Foundation has appreciated the willingness of Franklin University to support our efforts through this challenging past year, by transferring to us, the ownership of the Johnny Appleseed collection; by housing it safely and securely in Browne Hall while we worked to secure funding; and by making possible the purchase of Browne Hall at a very reasonable cost,” Johnny Appleseed Foundation President Betsy Coffman said.

Credit: Betsy Coffman

Credit: Betsy Coffman

The Johnny Appleseed Foundation’s $250,000 fundraising goal will help acquire a permanent location and develop a solid financial base for the future, according to the foundation, which has raised $3,223 through fundraising and donations.

The foundation also received funds through an anonymous donor, without which the reopening of the museum would be possible, Coffman said.

“They really had a desire to see the museum survive. The generous donation made this all possible,” Coffman said.

Foundation officials would not say how much they are paying for Browne Hall or the amount the anonymous donor has contributed.

For over 25 years, the museum offered the largest collection of information about John Chapman, or Johnny Appleseed, preserving and teaching his values: generosity, humility, stewardship, thrift, entrepreneurship, and caring for one’s fellow man, according to the foundation.

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“By working together collaboratively, the Johnny Appleseed Education Center and Museum can continue to share the values of its namesake with scholars, children, travelers, and community groups from its location in Urbana, Ohio,” Dr. David Decker, president, Franklin University said. “Through this arrangement, we help preserve the historical significance of the Johnny Appleseed Education Center within the community.”

Browne Hall, located just outside the former university campus, was donated to Urbana University around 1918. The Johnny Appleseed Museum and Education Center moved to Browne Hall in 2018 from their former residence at Urbana University’s Bailey Hall.

Many projects need to be completed before the reopening in late September, a time that coincides with Johnny Appleseed’s birthday on Sept. 26, Coffman said. Volunteers will unpack and re-inventory the entire museum collection in the coming months.

The Johnny Appleseed Foundation will now have more space to redesign and reorganize the collection and museum, foundation officials said.


1990: Year the Johnny Appleseed Museum and Education Center was founded

$250,000: Amount of the Johnny Appleseed Foundation’s fundraising goal

$3,223: Amount the foundation has raised

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