Heritage wants to breathe new life into Claremont’s birthplace

The city’s historical society, preserving Claremont’s past for the last 30 years, has announced its plan to embark on a $250,000 fund-matching campaign, opening Memorial Park’s Garner House to the community in a way it hasn’t been in decades. Announced at city council on Tuesday, the “Our House” campaign will officially kick off with a fundraising night this Monday, December 3.

Over the next 4 years, Claremont Heritage will attempt to raise half a million dollars, with half of the amount matched by outside grants, to reinstate the historic Claremont home to its former glory—from window trimmings to furniture—for the enjoyment of a future generation of Claremonters. After a series of restorations, the home will reopen its doors to the public for educational programming as well as house tours, weddings and events.

“People often see the house in the middle of Memorial Park and have no idea what it is or that Claremont Heritage is even there,” said John Neiuber, president of the Claremont Heritage board of directors. “We want to change that.”

The announcement of the Our House drive is a fitting end to the year of “neighbors and neighborhoods,” a theme Mr. Neiuber selected to carry Claremont Heritage through 2012. He chose the theme in an attempt to help increase local knowledge of specific areas within the city and to encourage involvement with its preservation.

“We want to make the Garner House more of a center of activity within the city, and to continue with our mission to advocate for the preservation of historic Claremont. This is what gives our town its unique flavor,” Mr. Neiuber said.

Herman and Bess Garner built the Garner House in 1927 in the center of what many consider to be Claremont’s birthplace, Memorial Park. The home contained 2 floors and 3 wings designed around a center patio in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. The sweeping house contained 15 rooms and 6 bathrooms, plus a large living room, kitchen, dining room and library. A 3-story tower resided in the patio as a play area for the Garner’s sons. Claremont Heritage was granted stewardship of the home in 2001 and has since been at work helping the historic home live up to its role as “Claremont’s House.”

After the opening of the Ginger Elliott Exhibition Center several years ago, Heritage has set to work over the past year restoring a public restroom on the first floor, along with spaces that can be used as a bride’s room. Further first floor restorations include fixing the kitchen and fitting it for use in catering.

Proposed second-floor renovations include restoring the children’s bedrooms, restrooms and the adult wing: bedrooms, dressing room, office and den will all be fixed and fitted with period furniture. Original light fixtures—though fitted with new, energy-efficient lighting—will also be included. Claremont Heritage also hopes to restore the outdoor landscaping and rebuild the 3-story tower that was torn down in the 1960s.

Claremont Heritage hopes to reach its goal with a little help from the community. Donors can purchase courtyard pavers for $100 or furnishing and fixtures for $250 or more. Names of donors will be posted inside the house. Donors can sponsor a room, to be inscribed with a name of their choice, for $2000 to $5000. The kitchen or tower can be sponsored for $10,000.

Heritage is hard at work attempting to find matching grants to help aid its mission of sharing the city’s cultural heritage with generations to come, according to Executive Director David Shearer.

“Our history is so rich,” Mr. Shearer said. “It would be great to have a place where people can come and experience it.”

Though just 2 days into its campaign, Our House is already $10,000 strong, according to Mr. Shearer. Several weddings are already in the works for this coming summer and the Ginger Elliott Exhibition Space continues to house a variety of rotating art displays. Though acknowledging the continued work that will goes into this latest endeavour, Mr. Neiuber looks forward to what the journey ahead will bring.

“The restoration of the Garner House will benefit everyone involved. For the community, it will preserve an historic site as a house museum that will be available to all. For the city of Claremont, it will create a cultural icon that embodies our history for future generations as well as a central destination for information and education. For Claremont Heritage, it will enable a community-dedicated facility that will provide vital educational programming and a study center focused on sustainable preservation,” Mr. Neiuber said. “We think it’s a win-win for everyone.”

Join Claremont Heritage in kicking off their fundraising efforts this Monday, December 3 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Garner House, 840 N. Indian Hill Blvd. Refreshments will be served. For more information, visit www.claremontheritage.org.

—Beth Hartnett



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