After being closed for nearly four months due to the Coronavirus, the Old North Foundation reopened the historic site to visitors on July 16, 2020. Unfortunately, the Foundation is unable to sustain operations under the ongoing pandemic restrictions, and has announced it will suspend on-site programming.
Read the full statement from Old North Executive Director Nikki Stewart below.
The Old North Foundation made the proactive decision to suspend on-site programming on March 13 in response to the mounting COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, we made the painful decision to lay off our frontline staff and directed our remaining permanent employees to focus on producing top quality digital content and planning for a safe reopening.
The Old North Foundation has an annual operating budget of $1.3M. Over 90% of the budget is dependent on earned income through ticket sales, tours, school trips, and merchandise sales; we do not have an endowment to support our operations. Furthermore, the majority of this revenue is earned in April-October, the peak tourism season for Freedom Trail sites. As such, the loss of revenue over the last four months has been devastating.
On July 16, we reopened our site for limited operations Thursday through Sunday. In the first two weeks, we welcomed, on average, 50-60 visitors per day. The majority of our visitors are traveling to Boston from high risk areas. In contrast, a typical July day would see over 750 people visiting the church, gift shop, and historic chocolate program. We are supportive of the guidelines and travel ban set in place by Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh. Yet, these constraints will not allow us to sustain our current operations.
On Monday, July 27, the Old North Foundation Board of Directors made the difficult decision to suspend on-site programming and reduce staffing to protect our limited resources. Over the next six months we will focus our efforts on strategic planning, developing virtual content for the 2020-21 school year, and diversifying our revenue streams.
Despite current challenges, we are optimistic for our future. As we prepare for Old North Church’s 300th anniversary in 2023, the lessons of our history and people are more relevant than ever. We aim to inspire our (virtual) visitors to consider the roles that active citizenship, hope, sacrifice, and patriotism can play in their lives and communities.
Learn more about Old North’s virtual programs at oldnorth.com.
Note that the Old North Congregation is following the guidance of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, and has suspended public worship and congregational gatherings at the Church. Online worship continues, and the Congregation hopes to begin offering a limited attendance, weekly in-person worship service after Labor Day.