The US Chess Hall of Fame had its origins in a dank basement of the US Chess Federation in New Windsor, N.Y. It had a few artifacts, a few appointees to the Hall, but almost no visitors. The US Chess Trust, of which Harold Dondis is a trustee, purchased it in the hope of receiving charitable support for the Hall, which languished in the basement for a while, but was finally moved to Washington, D.C. Using the Hall’s charitable income, David Mehler leased space in a new building that was not far from the Capitol.
Under Mehler’s direction, the Hall offered a markedly improved experience for visitors by including interesting displays of the great players who had been admitted into the Hall and a number of historical artifacts.
Sid Samole, owner of Excalibur Electronics, was at that time a Trustee. His company sold chess-playing computers and he proposed a joint arrangement with the Trust to bring the Hall to Florida. This arrangement provided Excalibur with advertising exposure to the American chess community. Samole’s company constructed a building in the form of a rook to house the Hall. This arrangement was accepted by the Trust in 2001.
The attractive quarters were thus enlarged and further improved. Movies, displays, chess materials and sets, as well as artifacts, made the building an attractive tourist destination. Scholastic trips to visit the museum were common, as were tournaments. Banquets were held for celebrities and newly elected members of the Hall. The name was changed to the World Chess Hall of Fame and Sidney Samole Museum. Samole, regrettably, developed lung cancer and passed away in 2000. His son, Shane, took his place as a trustee.
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