The furnishings and other contents of the Clinton Whitmore Mansion -- which of many were not original to the house when it was constructed in 1903 -- were cleared out the weekend of Aug. 17-18 during an estate sale.
"It does look empty," said Kim Chapman of Ceres, who conducted the sale through Ciao Bella Estates, an estate clearing business located in the Bay area.
The house was purchased by the city of Ceres last December for $475,000 but the contents belonged to former owners Cary and Nancy Pope. Operation of the house as a rental venue was turned over to the non-profit Whitmore Mansion Foundation for which the Popes continued to facilitate weddings and other parties booked in advance of the property sale. However, the Popes decided to remove themselves as the vendor, and sell off what they owned inside the house.
The Ceres City Council met on Aug. 15 to talk about spending $8,000 to buy and keep some of the contents inside the house but was advised by City Attorney Michael Lyions that park dedication fees could not be used. Guarding its precious general fund dollars, the council decided against participating in the sale.
The sale included items like furniture, stoves, linens, a large iron gazebo, and fountains.
Chapman could not disclose the amount of the estate sale totals but said estates that size typically reach $18,000 and $30,000.
Chapman helped to identify items in the house that were either original or period furnishings. Although the city unable to buy those desired items, a number of generous community-minded benefactors stepped up and purchased them so they would remain in the Victorian mansion. A rare square piano dating back to the 1850s that was not owned by the Whitmores but an item normally found in a house that old was purchased to be left in place. Benefactors also bought an organ that was part of the original First Baptist Church which the Whitmores helped support financially.
The Popes also wanted a blue rug in the large dining room to remain since it was donated solely for use in the house.
"There were some pieces that seemed to make sense to stay there, such as the ADA list," said Chapman. Those items included a wheelchair lift to make the house handicapped accessible as required by law since the house is owned by a government entity.
A china hutch in the dining room and French buffet was also period appropriate and snagged by a donor.
Chapman also helped to get some donated pieces to fill some of the rooms that looked empty after the sale. Because she trades in antiques Chapman has identified needed furnishings which several benefactors said they would buy for use in the mansion. Because she is in the antique business she can buy for a fourth of the fair market value. She believes the mansion can be filled with furnishings and antiques for about $30,000.
"We'll get it filled back. It'll take some time."
The dining room is equipped for use as is the bride's and groom's rooms upstairs.
Chapman does not think it's wise to fill the house with antique treasures because they could be stolen in the course of renting out the facility. But she believes antique reproductions would be quite fitting.
"I have reproductions in my house that are 90 years old but you don't want to be putting in an original Louis XV piece in a venue that's somebody could steal something off because you'd die. That would cost you $25,000 for one couch then somebody spills coffee on it and you're done."
The city has identified a number of improvements necessary to bring the mansion up to standards.