The former Wabash Country Club is undergoing massive renovation after Boston resident Richard Orareo purchased the landmark at the auction held this past June. Orareo, one of the world’s largest collectors of Shroud of Turin artifacts and literature, hopes to convert the building into the nation’s epicenter of Shroud research.
“I first heard about the Shroud on a television show back in Boston in the seventies,” Orareo said of his introduction to the shroud. “Even though I grew up Catholic and I have an Italian background, I had never even heard of the Shroud until then. At the end of the program they said to send a self addressed stamped envelope and they’d send a picture of the Shroud. With that picture came a listing of books about the Shroud that were available, and I bought one.”
Orareo later visited a small shrine to the Shroud in Port Chester, N.Y., where he was influenced by a priest to become a spokesperson for the Shroud.
“I’ve lectured quite a bit in the northeast about the Shroud,” Orareo said. “For the past 35 or 40 years, I like to think I have become that spokesperson.”
Orareo’s collection, the largest private collection in the United States and third largest in the world, features an array of 500-year old artifacts and a 1,000 volume library, all of which will be housed in Wabash.
“The focal point will be the crucifix on the wall in what was the Oak Room,” Orareo said. “We also have the earliest known engraving of the Shroud, which is dated 1578. With these types of artifacts, sunlight is a sensitive issue, and this building has beautiful windows with beautiful views that we are trying to work around.”
The work inside the Country Club has been an effort to restore it to its natural beauty. Orareo hired Corky Ross of American Eagle Home Maintenance to lead the restoration process.
“I cannot express how happy I have been with the job Corky and his guys have done so far,” Orareo said. “This building needed a lot of work when I purchased it. I was surprised by how much needed done to bring it back to where it needed to be.”
After working level by level from the top of the Country Club to the ground level, Ross and Orareo were pleasantly surprised by what was found in the old kitchen. After completely dismantling and removing all the kitchen components and cinder blocks, an original limestone wall was found. The entire first floor; the porch, kitchen, and oak room, will all now house Shroud artifacts. The second floor will be a reception area; the third floor is Orareo’s living quarters, while the attic will remain a storage area.
The basement will also be utilized, including the card room, which will become the library. The bar will stay intact, but will be incorporated to host various Shroud items.
“This has been a huge undertaking and an adventure at the same time,” Orareo said. “The finished result will become a major center in Shroud research. Each time they unveil the Shroud, millions make the trek to see it. The Shroud is the gospel of the crucifixion illustrated.”
Orareo said work is constantly progressing and he hopes to have a soft opening of the museum in April with a formal opening to follow in May.
“I would like to open around the Catholic Feast of the Holy Shroud, which is May 4,” Orareo said. “That is the goal. It may happen, it may not. This work is moving along much quicker than I had anticipated.”
With the opening, Orareo wants those in the community to know the museum will be there and that he hopes they visit. One of the featured pieces of the collection the earliest known engraving of the Shroud dated 1578.
“The people here in Wabash that I have met in my time here have been so warm and so welcoming,” Orareo said of the people he has met so far. “I grew up in a small town outside of Boston, so I kind of know the feel of small towns. I could not be happier with the decision to bring my collection to Wabash.”