“Mobile’s official antebellum home” could close its doors on Sunday and be sold by the city in the future.
A statement from the Historic Mobile Preservation Society confirmed funding for the house purchased by the city in 1955 has dwindled in recent years and the society’s board can no longer keep up with the maintenance costs without more support.
Starting seven years ago the annual city allocation to the house in the form of a performance contract was reduced to $30,000. However, the “bare-bones” cost of operating the home and museum is $70,000 per year, according to the board’s statement.
“That means that for the last seven years, HMPS has been using most of its income to cover the financial shortfall in the costs of operating Oakleigh,” the statement reads. “No funds have been available for marketing Oakleigh both inside and outside the Mobile area, or presenting special exhibits and programs at the Oakleigh museum and the other programs that HMPS would like to present have suffered for lack of funds.”
The board stated the city’s maintenance of the grounds in the last seven years has also declined, citing several examples from the HVAC system to the front porch and landscaping.
The board is hopeful the city would restore funding up to $70,000, President Herndon Inge said in a phone interview. He added that the board has been trying to schedule a meeting with administration officials for six months or so and have not gotten a response.
The statement also claims the board’s budget was cut by an additional 10 percent, or $3,000, in the 2019 budget. While Stimpson’s budget proposal did cut many of the city’s performance contracts by 10 percent, the Mobile City Council restored that funding before passing the budget on Tuesday.
If the house does close its doors, board members have indicated the property could be sold.
“The mayor and his representative have recently expressed that he intends to sell off city properties, and maybe even Oakleigh,” the statement reads.
City spokeswoman Laura Byrne wrote in a statement that discussions between the Oakleigh board and the administration are ongoing and no decision has been made on the house’s future.
“Our goal is to ensure a successful pathway forward for the Oakleigh House and the surrounding neighborhood,” Byrne wrote.
As for selling the property, Byrne acknowledged the city has been dealing with ways to deal with a large amount of maintenance costs on city owned structures.
The board is looking at all alternatives for funding and is keeping its options open, according to the statement.
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