$12 million given to support Crawford Collection

The Cleveland Foundation will receive more than $12 million from the estate of Kathleen S. “Kay” Crawford to support the Crawford Auto Aviation Collection of the Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS).

Crawford’s estate recently created the Frederick C. and Kathleen S. Crawford Fund of the Cleveland Foundation. The foundation expected to receive $12 million in May, with additional money – between $2 million-$4 million – coming later as assets from the estate are sold.

Per Kay Crawford’s wishes, WRHS will use the funds to maintain, preserve and restore the items in the auto aviation collection, including about 140 cars, 10 airplanes and numerous motorcycles, bicycles, and other transportation-related collectibles. Money from the Crawford Fund also is earmarked to preserve public access to the collection and to maintain its name in honor of Kay’s late husband, Frederick Crawford.

Frederick Crawford was a Cleveland industrialist recognized worldwide for his leadership in the automotive and aviation industries.  As president of Thompson Products, he created the Thompson Auto Album in 1937, one of the first car museums in the United States. Through mergers, the company eventually became TRW. In 1963, TRW donated its auto collection to the WRHS, where it was renamed in Crawford’s honor.

Frederick Crawford served on the Western Reserve Historical Society board for many years, including tenure as president. He died in 1994 at the age of 103. Kay Crawford died in 2010 at the age of 94. She, too, was a longtime supporter of WRHS and most recently had given a $1 million endowment gift to support the Crawford Collection.

“We are extraordinarily grateful to the Crawfords for this generous gift,” said Gainor Davis, president and CEO of Western Reserve Historical Society. “Fred and Kay Crawford were two of our greatest supporters. This gift will be a critical part of our strategy to maintain the Historical Society as Northeast Ohio’s steward of the region’s rich historical past.”

The Historical Society faced controversy with the October 2009 sale of 21 cars from the Crawford Collection determined to be non-mission-related, or duplicates within the collection. Proceeds from the sale were used to help retire $5.4 million in long-standing debt, largely resulting from a failed attempt to build a new lakefront transportation museum that would have housed much of the Crawford Collection. About $200,000 of the debt remains.

“Like many other institutions, Western Reserve Historical Society faced painful decisions during the recent economic downturn,” Davis said.  “But as we move toward our 150th anniversary, we are poised for a rebirth. Individual donations and museum admissions to both the History Center in University Circle and Hale Farm & Village in Cuyahoga Valley were up in 2010.  Fiscal year 2009-2010 ended with a $60,000 operating surplus, and we are on track to generate a modest operating surplus for the second year in a row.”

For more information on the Cleveland Foundation, please visit www.ClevelandFoundation.org.

For more information on Western Reserve Historical Society, please visit www.wrhs.org.

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