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Mansion escrow hasn't closed yet
City Attorney Mike Lyions seemed a bit nervous on Thursday, six days after escrow was supposed to close on the historic Clinton Whitmore mansion.

"We've got our fingers crossed," said Lyions, who has been overseeing the city's acquisition of the property. "We're sitting here and waiting."

The city had been informed that the short sale of the historically important mansion and grounds would close escrow on Dec. 14. That has since been extended to Dec. 27 because of a hitch in securing documents from the junior lienholders who must sign off on the sale.

There are two junior lienholders involved in the short sale. One party is Robert and Edna Whitmore who have a $325,000 interest in the property; and the other an unnamed deed of trust holder with a $75,000 interest. Both lienholders lose their money regardless if house is sold in a short sale to the city or another party buys it a foreclosure auction.

Lyions did not have details on what failed to transpire to close escrow. He said it may be that the Whitmores had not signed papers.

"I know they were supposed to go in and sign," said Lyions. "They (Bank of America) still believe that they are going to sign."

The city's offer of $475,000 was accepted by the bank, which postponed a planned July 17 trustee sale. In 2010 the property appraised at $480,000.

Owners of the 1903 mansion -- considered the gem of downtown Ceres -- encountered financial struggles in keeping up with mortgage payments. The recession has impacted income from rentals for weddings and private functions.

Cary Pope, who defaulted on his loan for the mansion with wife Nancy, approached the Ceres City Council earlier this year to ask for city participation to keep the property out of foreclosure. Pope originally asked the city to buy an undeveloped portion of the mansion property for a future park site until he received word about a private investor's interest in the property. The investor did not follow through, thus Pope returned to the council for a May 29 council Study Session.

The Popes paid $1.3 million for the mansion property in 2005.

If the city takes possession of the property, the council plans to turn the operation of the mansion over to the Clinton Whitmore Mansion Foundation.

The 8,000-square-foot mansion was built in 1903 by Clinton Whitmore, son of town founder Daniel Whitmore. The three-story mansion remained in the Whitmore family until Robert and Edna Whitmore sold it in 2005 to the Popes. The mansion was neglected for decades until the Popes bought it. It received an extreme makeover for the 2007 Community Hospice Interior Design Showcase.