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September 9, 2016

Converting museum, visitor center could cost $800,000

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
The museum at Brentmoor operated from 2013 to 2015.
Brentmoor Property
• Size: 3.06 acres

• Where: Main and North Calhoun streets, Warrenton.

• Owner: Town of Warrenton.

• Purchased: For $460,000 in February 1999 for development of John S. Mosby Museum.

• House: Brentmoor, 4,200-square-foot Italianate, built in 1850, converted to museum with donations and grants.

• Visitor center: Two-story brick structure which the town built in 2006 at 33 N. Calhoun St., behind Brentmoor.

• Assessed value: $1.12 million total for county tax purposes. Property is tax-exempt.

• Appraised value: Town hopes to have it next month.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Renovating the former John S. Mosby Museum and adjacent visitor center for other uses would cost the Town of Warrenton as much as $800,000.

The town council continues to evaluate options for Brentmoor, the historic Italianate home at 173 Main St. that Warrenton purchased in 1999.

For more than a year, town officials have pondered the property’s future after the Mosby Museum closed. Despite a task force’s recommendation, the council recently decided it has no interest in another museum attempt.

It has focused on two options:

• Converting the Warrenton-Fauquier Visitor Center on Calhoun Street to town offices and remodeling the adjacent 4,200-square-foot Brentmoor for a visitor center, with offices and, possibly, historical displays.

• Selling the property.

Last month, a council majority expressed support for moving the visitor center to Brentmoor and asked Town Manager Brannon Godfrey to get cost estimates. The house has a bathroom in the basement but none potentially accessible to the public.

Renovating Brentmoor for the visitor center and government offices would cost $336,000 to $420,000, according to a report Mr. Godfrey prepared.

Renovating the visitor center at 33 Calhoun St. as town offices would cost about $212,400. Warrenton built the visitor center as a complementary structure to Brentmoor — providing public restrooms and space for lectures.

Site work and parking could add $150,000 to reuse of the Brentmoor tract.

“These are really rough numbers,” Mr. Godfrey told the council Thursday night. “If we are really going to pursue this option, I wouldn’t bank on a price” without an architect’s help.

Brentmoor’s renovation probably would cost more if it included an elevator and a sprinkler system, as the building code and the Americans with Disabilities Act might require.

A $1-million historical renovation — funded with donations and grants — converted it from a private home to a museum, which operated from 2013 to 2015.

In March, a council-appointed Brentmoor task force produced a 45-page report that recommended another chance for the museum under new management.

But council members took a museum off the list of possibilities in August.

The task force had estimated a minimum cost of $50,000 to convert the house into office space and up to $200,000 to remodel it for residential use, with bathrooms and a kitchen.

Its report also indicated Brentmoor’s historic easement might prevent renovation for a use other than a museum.

But, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which holds the easement, subsequently told town officials that the agency frequently works with property owners to allow modifications of those deed restrictions and to permit remodeling.

Several times, council members have indicated they oppose additional expenditures at Brentmoor.

“As I’ve said all along, I don’t want to spend any more money on it,” Jerry Wood (Ward 1) said in July.

“I’ve been very clear on my position, going back to the candidates’ forum (in April), that I would not support one more nickel of taxpayers’ money going into Brentmoor to be a museum,” Bob Kravetz (Ward 4) two months ago.

In his report, Mr. Godfrey also urged council members to consider what might happen to the town-owned building that houses the county library at 11 Winchester St.

“If the library vacates its current location, the building is under the town’s control and is suitable for both visitor center and town administrative functions,” Mr. Godfrey wrote. “It would not be cost effective to renovate Brentmoor for these uses now and then relocate them again to the current library building within ten years.”

The council will continue discussing the options for Brentmoor after getting an appraisal of its potential sale price. Town officials could have an appraisal by next month.

Update on Brentmoor-Mosby House Sept. 8 by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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martinkus · September 11, 2016 at 1:53 pm
Rover 530,

Nicely stated!
Rover 530 · September 10, 2016 at 11:06 pm
It's going to cost a huge amount of money to fix a big mistake. Does Warrenton have the money to do this even if they have the desire?

Cut losses and sell the property for the most you can get for it. Let the new owners decide what to do with it. Keep the visitor's center and spend the least amount needed. There's a lot more to Warrenton than this one building.

But, Warrenton government has a history of throwing good money after bad so getting out of this mess may be very expensive indeed.
martinkus · September 10, 2016 at 1:52 pm
Sell it and then pay back the taxpayers who were swindled in the first place.
robbinnhoodd · September 9, 2016 at 6:33 pm
It's a giant vortex trying to suck every last nickel out of taxpayers. They could make a movie out of the Mosby House called Money Pit 2. We could use economic development funds to pay Tom Hanks' salary.
TooTrue · September 9, 2016 at 2:25 pm
Brilliant, the blind leading the blind.
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