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Whitmore Mansion moving in a positive direction
Foundation gives its update to City Council
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Owned by the city of Ceres since last year, the Clinton Whitmore Mansion is being operated by the Whitmore Mansion Foundation, a non-profit organization that is both seeking to make improvements as well as rent it out for private parties and wedding events. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Since the city took possession of the Clinton Whitmore Mansion last year to keep it preserved and available for community use, caretakers have been presented with a plethora of issues.

City officials were happy, however, to hear that operation of the mansion turned a profit of $700.

"We are pleased that it is moving in a positive direction," said City Manager Toby Wells. "We did see some revenue in this quarter. Although it's not a huge dollar amount, but $700 is $700. That period of time was a lower period of time for expenses so it actually covered the expenses of the mansion for the first three months of the year."

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 2014. Quarter updates are given to the council to keep tabs on the group's progress.

Lisa Mantarro Moore, president of the Whitmore Mansion Foundation, said her group has fielded 65 calls about prospective rentals of the mansion and grounds.

"Every call that comes in is tracked and logged," said Moore. "People are looking at general questions, dates for this year as well as 2015. We have actually scheduled some educational tours in the month of May with some local adult disability programs."

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.

For rentals, the foundation has mirrored the requirements which the city has for use of its facilities, such as insurance and security.

The group is working to add aerial lighting to the backyard.

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.

Moore also indicated that her group is in discussion with a local person who has volunteered to become a grants coordinator to secure funding.

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.