New aerial lighting has been installed by volunteers with donated materials at the Clinton Whitmore Mansion as strides continue to make the venue a viable location for private parties. That was the jest of a recent report submitted to the Ceres City Council.
City Manager Toby Wells said the Whitmore Mansion Foundation, the group running the operations at the mansion, sees continued interest in renting mansion grounds. Lisa Mantarro Moore, president of the Whitmore Mansion Foundation, said her group has fielded over 90 calls about prospective rentals of the mansion and grounds.
The non-profit foundation has generated volunteers to keep the grounds watered and plants thriving.
The city spent $12,700 which has been offset by $1,900 in revenue. Wells said that net expenditures over 18 months are averaging just over $600 per month with the trend for this calendar year "showing increased revenues with declining expenses."
"The foundation is working on a potential reception/bridal vendor faire and continues to look at new ways to market the mansion," wrote Wells in the report to the council. "A grants coordinator and marketing specialist is volunteering to assist in the outreach efforts and working to update social media to assist in the marketing efforts."
The 8,000-square-foot mansion was built in 1903 by Clinton Whitmore, son of town founder Daniel Whitmore. It had been in private hands and rented out for weddings and private parties until it was forced to be sold in a bank short sale. In October 2012 the city and Bank of America agreed to transact the mansion and 2.47 acres of land for a short sale price of $475,300.
Since buying the facility, the city has indicated that it has neither the funds to take care of a myriad of physical improvements nor the staff time to maintain it. So the city turned over the operation of the mansion to the Whitmore Mansion Foundation, a non-profit group that has a passion to improve the house and organize rentals. The city has made annual agreements for the group to run the mansion, the latest period until January 2015.
Quarter updates are given to the council to keep tabs on the group's progress.
The house is being shown actively to prospective renters "pretty much every weekend" to walk through people wanting to use it for weddings and showers, said Moore.
Moore said the mansion was improved by the efforts of about 25 volunteers during the "Love Ceres" event.
The foundation has formally asked the Ceres Lions Club to consider constructing a project for the mansion, including an outdoor restroom.
She said the foundation has been meeting with local businesses for regular meetings and outdoor receptions.
Moore said her group is trying to build back the furniture collection after the estate sale stripped the home of some of the period pieces.
The mansion is not without a laundry list of desired remodeling needs. The city has identified the mansion needs $605,000 in complete improvements, including:
• $40,000 in kitchen upgrades;
• $50,000 for an exterior restroom,
• $50,000 worth of ADA access improvements;
• $10,000 in plumbing needs;
• $30,000 in electrical work;
• $35,000 in painting;
• Sprinkler improvements worth $20,000;
• $35,000 to heating and air conditioning upgrades;
• $60,000 for a fire sprinkler system and connect to city water;
• $250,000 for a new parking lot.