WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2003

Cleaning

Most of our Christmas “vacation” was spent cleaning twenty years of collected detritus from the mansion. When Dawn’s grandmother passed away, Dawn’s mother just locked the door — all of her clothes, furniture, papers, etc. were left to moulder. [I later found out that Dawn’s grandfather’s stuff was also there, and he passed away in 1972!] That would have been bad enough, but then they used the mansion for storage. Our first inclination was to toss everything, but we tried to err on the side of caution. The only “find” we made was a stuffed white bunny (well, gray now) that Dawn had as a kid. We’ll get him cleaned up.

While we worked, we listened to music from an old radio in the attic. I imagine that is the most activity that poor house has seen in a long time.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2003

Historic York

We hired Barb Raid of Historic York to handle the National Register nomination and the Historic Tax Credit application. It’s a lot of work, and not a cheap process. If you’re interested in the details, I’ll let you know as soon as I found out myself.

Fortunately, Barb had a previous nomination to go from. Unfortunately, that previous nomination had been rejected. (Actually, that was a blessing in disguise: If the nomination had been accepted ten years ago, we would not be eligible for the tax credits.) At the time, they said the mansion could not be listed by itself – it needed to be part of an historic district. Barb was hopeful that attitudes had changed and they would allow it this time.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2003

Chandeliers

The mansion has three beautiful chandeliers, and we knew that eventually they had to be moved. I called Carol Wilson, the county historian, who called Doug Dinsmore, of Skelly & Loy, who referred Gary Kopperman of The Restoration Clinic. As Carole said, “The network lives!”

Gary said the chandeliers were fine and we should leave them alone, but he was concerned about the furniture (which had been Dawn’s grandmothers and hadn’t been touched since she passed away twenty years ago). I’d never looked at any of it, but under the dust Gary pointed out all the wonderful detail and finishing work, and told us how lucky we were to have it. Again, I feel like an ingrate.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2003

Speedwell Forge Park

I mentioned in September that Doug Dinsmore was doing an historic inventory for Speedwell Forge Park. It was several months later before I asked, why were they doing this? Were they going to develop the park? Turn it into a strip mall? I had no idea. Fortunately, Sally Vanderslice, an old friend of Dawn’s mom, is very active in the community so we gave her a call. Sure enough, she was on the board researching this. The county was looking to promote the park, but would leave it as an undeveloped nature preserve. We couldn’t have asked for better.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 01, 2003

So You Want To Be An Innkeeper

Years ago, I made the stipulation that if we were going to invest our life’s savings in restoring the mansion, it had to be self-sustaining – that is, it wouldn’t become a money pit – and Dawn suggested a B&B. She even called it “Grandma’s House” because, after all, that was her Grandma’s house.

Now, a lot of people talk about opening a B&B, but I think they really just want a good tax write-off. Inviting strangers into your home requires a lot of trust, patience, and dedication, none of which Dawn or I possess. So we bought a book (called, appropriately enough, “So You Want To Be An Innkeeper”) which basically said that the best innkeepers would never want to be innkeepers. That was encouraging.

It turns out the authors also run a workshop in Santa Barbara, so we’re going to sign up. If nothing else, it’s a good tax write-off.