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March 9, 2016

Report says Mosby Museum deserves another shot

Photo/Cassandra Brown
The task force concludes it would cost at least $50,000 to convert Brentmoor for office use.
The task force concluded that selling or leasing Brentmoor for public use other than for a museum would be a significant financial and cultural loss to the community
— Brentmoor Task Force report
Brentmoor Report
• What: 45-page report on suggestions for the future of Italianate mansion that the Town of Warrenton bought in 1999.

• Where: 173 Main St.

• Task force: Councilman Yak Lubowsky (Ward 3), Ed Wright, Terry Nyhous, Bob Rust, Dave Gerrish, Mitch Oldham, Paula Johnson, Dudley Payne, Birge Watkins, Dave Goetz, Bob Dyer and Melissa Wiedenfeld.

• Recommendation: Maintain the house as a museum.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The defunct Mosby Museum in Warrenton deserves another chance, a committee recommended this week.

More than a year after the museum closed, no other potential use makes sense for Brentmoor, the town-owned home at 173 Main St., according to a report released Tuesday. (Report at bottom of story.)

The town council last fall appointed 12 people to serve on the Brentmoor task force, which produced a 45-page report.

It recommends developing the house as a “self-sustaining, independent museum and education center for the public, managed by an outside organization.” That plan varies little from the original vision when the town purchased the house in 1999.

“For the benefit of the people of the town, this is economic development, heritage tourism that is going to give money to the town,” said task force member Paula Johnson, who helped found the Fauquier Heritage Institute.

Sixteen years ago the town purchased Brentmoor from the Shepherd family for $460,000.

Former Mayor George Fitch, who died in 2014, and his wife Patricia led the effort to transform Brentmoor into a museum celebrating John S. Mosby, a Confederate cavalry leader who lived in the house after the Civil War.

The museum foundered, in large part because of an accident that killed board member Harold Spencer at the adjacent visitor center in 2007 and resulted in a lawsuit.

Finally, the relaunched museum held a “soft” grand opening in December 2012 and remained in operation three days a week until November 2014, when a non-profit group exhausted funds from the sale of historic tax credits that it funneled to the town.

Town Councilman Yak Lubowsky (Ward 3) last September led a forum to discuss ideas for the future of the Italianate residence, which sits on three acres. The task force resulted from that forum.

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources holds an historic easement that prevents alternations to the house without approval.

But, no town official or task force member has contacted VDHR to determine whether the agency would consider amending the easement to allow changes, such as installation of public restrooms. That change might open Brentmoor to use as offices for government agencies, non-profit groups or businesses.

The task force did, however, consult with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Mr. Lubowsky said.

Brentmoor, which underwent a $1-million historical renovation, lacks public restrooms and a kitchen.

“If you wanted to turn it back into a house . . . you would have a very considerable investment,” Mr. Lubowsky said.

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

“Our first approach is do no harm (for the town) . . . but to try to do something useful for the benefit of the community,” Mr. Lubowsky said Tuesday.

“The task force concluded that selling or leasing Brentmoor for public use other than for a museum would be a significant financial and cultural loss to the community,” the report reads.

Task force members cited the 16 years of work and $1.6 million in donations and grants to fund renovation as reasons to give the museum another chance.

“There is little downside to letting someone else run it as a museum,” said White Horse Auto Wash owner Bob Rust, who served on the task force.

The group suggested the Stuart-Mosby Historical Society, based in Fairfax County, or another organization could manage the museum, while the town maintains ownership of the building.

The society has submitted a proposal to manage the Mosby Museum, “with initial funding from a generous donor,” the report says.

The task force suggested the town could collect rent of as much as $1,500 a month from a museum operator.

The group also suggested creating an organization, the Brentmoor Trust, to oversee and support the town’s goals for the museum and to help with fundraising.

“This is just the beginning of the process,” Mr. Lubowsky said.

The town council probably will review the report at its April 7 next work session.

Brentmoor Task Force Report by Fauquier Now

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oldragmtn · March 19, 2016 at 4:52 pm
Somehow, Fauquier has lost the memory of who lived in the home- two great Confederate leaders-which would have brought many people across our state to see it- but Fauquier County would not promote this home in the manner that it should have been!
NO flags of the Confederate state-the Virginia state flag at no time was flown. I am tired of compromising history in favor of political correctness!
Jim Griffin · March 10, 2016 at 2:03 am
On the intro from page one, the word conversation is grammatically incorrect. You were looking to use the word conversion. Once corrected, please delete this comment.
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