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August 9, 2017

Warrenton seeking buyer for former Mosby museum

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
The museum at Brentmoor, which the town purchased 18 years ago, operated from 2013 to 2015.
House museums are struggling across the country. This is not Monticello or Mount Vernon. Please, look at bringing in private, for-profit opportunities so this is beneficial to the community, while preserving our rich heritage.
— Carter Nevill, Warrenton business owner
Brentmoor Property
• Size: 3.06 acres

• Where: 173 Main St., 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 1859, 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: $1.17 million for the visitor center and historic Brentmoor in January 2017. 

• Estimated market value: $595,000 for Brentmoor in May 2017; with bathroom and other improvements, possibly $750,000.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
For sale by owner: Italianate style, 4,200-square-foot historic house in downtown Warrenton. Famous Virginians slept here. Fixer-upper: No bathrooms or kitchen.

Brentmoor, a 158-year-old house briefly used as a Civil War museum, stands at 173 Main St.

After almost two years of deliberation, Warrenton’s town council Tuesday night voted, 4-2, to put Brentmoor up for sale.

The town would subdivide the house and an acre from property that includes the Warrenton-Fauquier Visitor Center. 

The two-story house could bring $595,000 without improvements, according to a recent assessment by Allen Real Estate owner Joseph K. Allen Jr.

The town in 1999 bought the property for $460,000.

A $1-million historical renovation — funded with donations and grants — converted it from a private home to the John S. Mosby Museum, which operated from 2013 to early 2015.

The project restored Brentmoor to 19th-century conditions, removing a kitchen addition and bathrooms, while upgrading the electrical system and installing geothermal heating and cooling.

Over the last couple of years, town officials have struggled with the vacant building’s fate. Some council members wanted to sell it; some wanted to give a Civil War museum another chance under new management.

“In my five years on council, I have not struggled with any issue as much as I have struggled with this one,” Bob Kravetz (Ward 4) said. “I cannot support any further taxpayer money being spent on it.”

Sean Polster (At-large) and Jerry Wood (Ward 1) voted against the sale of Brentmoor.

“Once you sell a piece of property, it’s gone,” Mr. Polster said. “This property serves as a bookend for Main Street . . . . I do think the Brentmoor Trust should get a one-year test pilot.”

But, most of his colleagues disagreed.

“Almost nowhere in the U.S. are house museums succeeding,” Linda “Sunny” Reynolds (At-large) said. “I don’t think we have anything to lose by putting it on the market.”

Ms. Reynolds said she received three phone calls and a text message before Tuesday night’s meeting “urging us to put it on the market.”

Kevin Carter (Ward 5) said, “This has been a very difficult decision. For a municipality to own a building (that remains vacant) for the time it has, I think it is irresponsible . . . . I don’t think we should be landlords . . . . House museums have struggled.”

Alec Burnett (Ward 2) missed Tuesday’s meeting.

At least 102 town residents supported the sale of both the Brentmoor and the adjacent visitor center building, according to a petition that Warrenton resident “Dink” Godfrey presented to the council. 

Two citizens spoke Tuesday night in favor of selling.

“Has not 18 years of failure been enough?” Mr. Godfrey asked the council during citizen’s time.

Four citizens spoke against the sale.

“Brentmoor represents a significant period of history,” said Dave Gerrish, a member of the task force charged with investigating options for the house in 2015. “I strongly encourage the town council to not put Brentmoor up for sale.”

Business owner and citizen Carter Nevill urged the council to “preserve our history, but in a manner that does not burden the taxpayer.

“House museums are struggling across the country,” Mr. Nevill added. “This is not Monticello or Mount Vernon. Please, look at bringing in private, for-profit opportunities so this is beneficial to the community, while preserving our rich heritage.”

The town council in recent months considered two options: Selling the house or entering a management agreement with a nonprofit to operate it as a museum. 

The council last month received a draft agreement from the “Brentmoor Trust,” which proposed forming a nonprofit organization to manage the house as a history/cultural center for one to five years. 

The organization offered to $8,345 a year for Brentmoor’s operating expenses.

Former Town Councilman Birge Watkins, who also volunteered on the previous Mosby museum board, co-chairs the proposed Brentmoor Trust with Robert Dyer.

Town Manager Brannon Godfrey recommended putting Brentmoor on the market for 90 days with Allen Real Estate, which offered to market the property without charge.

The council Tuesday night agreed to let the town manager and his staff work with a historical property broker to decide how many days the house will remain on the market.

State law would require the town council to conduct a public hearing before selling the property.

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Rover 530 · August 10, 2017 at 7:16 pm
No tears should be shed for the demise of the Mosby Museum. The decision to find a buyer for the property was a good example of fiscal common sense. The town has owned the property 9 times longer than John Mosby lived there! Hundreds of thousands of dollars was spent to buy the property. A million dollars was spent to rehab the structure. Grant money was wasted on this failed project; grant money that could have been used productively on other projects. Donations benefitted donors for tax purposes but now there is no museum to show for the donations. The sale will allow the town to recoup some of the public investment, and, if the property is improved to add a kitchen and bathroom(s), it could be a residence again and generate tax revenue to both the town and the county. Brentmoor will always be Brentmoor. It will historically be one of the places in which John Mosby lived. The museum failed and it may very well fail again with the proposed Brentmoor Trust headed by some people who allowed the museum out of business in the first place. A responsible owner will keep Brentmoor as an asset to the town history and reputation. The town can move on to bigger and more important things.
TooTrue · August 10, 2017 at 8:45 am
More and More this place is becoming like anywhere USA or Northern Virginia. There is little or no regard for history, homicide is no longer elsewhere, kids are dying from an ever increasing drug problem and much of the leadership is in deep with developers and good ole boys.
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