Building history: Carmel Clay Historical Society preparing for fall opening of long-awaited museum


In the 1970s, Ineva Chapman helped lead the newly founded Carmel Clay Historical Society’s efforts to save and restore Monon Depot. Nearly 50 years later, her son is contributing to its refurbishment in a new way.

To honor his late mother, Carl Chapman made a donation through his family foundation to help fund new train-related exhibits and other improvements planned for the Depot (he declined to say the donation amount). The updates are being made in conjunction with work to build a long-awaited $6 million Carmel Clay History Museum next door.

The Depot building, which operated as a stop along the Monon Railroad from 1883 to 1974, has been temporarily relocated since 2022 to make way for museum construction but is set to return to its longtime home on the southwest corner of 1st St. SW and the Monon Greenway this year.

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A group of students gather at the Monon Depot in the mid-1970s as part of an effort to save the building, which had become obsolete. (Photo courtesy of the Carmel Clay Historical Society)

Ineva Chapman, who died in 2005, taught third grade in several Carmel schools and was a founding CCHS board member. She helped lead a fundraising effort to “Save the Depot” after the building became obsolete as train traffic sharply decreased.

“She was a teacher, so the history was really important as it tied to what she wanted to share with her students, the Depot in particular,” said Carl Chapman, who has lived in Newburgh since 2000 but plans to move back to Carmel.

CCHS Executive Director Debbie Gangstad said Carl Chapman’s contribution is one of many examples of the community effort under way to bring the museum to life. The three-story building is set to be complete this summer, Gangstad said, and it is expected to open to the public in the fall.

Since announcing plans for the building in 2021, CCHS officials have been hard at work to refine its offerings and exhibits.

Gangstad said the first floor, which will be free for the public to access, will showcase a broad swath of Carmel history, from early artifacts to the city’s growing network of roundabouts. The ground level is also set to contain a general store selling Indiana-related items and possibly include a cafe.

On the second floor, the museum will rotate temporary exhibits. It will also include a board room and offices.

The third floor will be dedicated to children. It is set to feature miniature replicas of notable Carmel buildings from different eras and include a stage for performances and presentations. The top level will also include an outdoor gathering area large enough to host approximately 50 guests.

The new building will also include dedicated, secure space for CCHS archives, which Gangstad believes will help the collection grow.

The refurbished Depot will have model trains on display and other railroad-themed exhibits. It will connect to the first floor of the museum.

Gangstad, a longtime Carmel resident, said she is excited to share the city’s history with residents and visitors, whether they’ve lived in the community for decades or are visiting for the first time.

“We have so many new community members, so many new citizens who are here because of the schools and the good housing,” she said. “When you move somewhere, you need to know, how did it get this way? What is happening here? We want to engage those people to also be participants in what we’re doing here.”

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The new Carmel Clay History Museum is expected to open to the public this fall. (Photo by Ann Marie Shambaugh)

Still seeking support

The Carmel Clay History Museum building is funded through Clay Township, which contributed $4 million through its impact program, and the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, which provided $1.4 million (plus $100,000 to help fund the interior. The Carmel Clay Historical Society has reached about half of its $4 million capital campaign goal to fund exhibits and cover other expenses related to opening the building.

In addition to donations, which are tax deductible, CCHS is seeking volunteers to help staff the museum once it opens. It is also accepting historic items with ties to Carmel to add to its collection and new or used Legos to be used in the children’s area.

CCHS memberships are available for $30 annually, $75 for three years or $500 for a lifetime membership.

Other opportunities to support CCHS will occur at various fundraising events throughout the year, including the annual spring tea in April, garden tour in June, Great Squirrel Stampede race in September and holiday home tour in December.

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