By Pam Kamphuis
I attended a meeting last Saturday morning at the Warren Green Hotel which was designed to gather the public’s ideas and opinions as to the future of the Mosby House, currently owned by the Town of Warrenton. The meeting was chaired by the President of the Fauquier Historical Society, Yak Lubowsky, and was attended by about 40 or so people.
The historic home, called Brentmoor, is also affectionately known as the Mosby House around Warrenton due to its having belonged to the legendary Colonel John S. Mosby for a few years following the Civil War. It has been restored, which is excellent. It has been open to the public on a sporadic basis over the last few years, but clearly is not being used to its full potential and appreciated as it should. For instance, the Warrenton-Fauquier Heritage Day celebration, which was later that day, was held on the grounds of Brentmoor, yet the historic home was not open for tours as it had been in past years.
I think most people who attended the meeting favored keeping it as a museum, but according to Joe Dempsey from the Board of Directors of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, which owns two historic home properties in Loudoun county, it is very difficult to make a museum-home financially viable. A hybrid approach, where part of the building would be used for something else, such as office space, would have the best chance of success.
Some suggestions that were floated included:
Use for events, weddings, fundraisers, etc.
Making it available for community-meetings, art displays, etc.
Keeping it as a museum, perhaps an expansion of the Old Jail Museum
Turning it into a restaurant or coffee house
Using it for town/county purposes, most likely offices
Renting out part as commercial office space.
When the library is relocated, moving the Virginia collection there
A resident curatorship program, which, while it may not be appropriate for the Mosby House in this situation, I thought was nevertheless a very interesting idea.
There was significant discussion about utilizing Warrenton’s historic value to increase tourism, and the role that the Mosby House could possibly play in that.
Warrenton’s Mayor was unable to attend, but he had 3 recommendations he sent in ahead for consideration. The first was to make Brentmoor available to the community as a rental space, similar to the John Barton Payne building. The second was to use it for the community in some way. The third was my personal favorite, was to use the Mosby House as the Visitor Center and repurpose the recently built existing Visitor Center, which has a host of problems, principally its lack of visibility from the main street. Brentmoor’s location and size are ideal, and what better than for a historic town to have one of its most beautiful and historic homes be the welcoming gateway and information center?
It should be noted that (in my understanding) the costs of acquiring and renovating the property have essentially been absorbed by the town already, so going forward there are only operating costs to consider, principally utilities. The cost of the future of the property, therefore, is contingent on what it is used for. For instance, if it requires minimal work to install some office space in there, that would obviously be less expensive than installing a commercial kitchen and bringing it up to code to operate as a full-service restaurant. In any event, the building’s lack of restrooms will likely have to be addressed; it was designed with the understanding that the restrooms at the adjacent visitor center could be used for the property.
The goal of the meeting was not to make any decisions, but to gather the public’s feelings and ideas to be presented to the town, who would then make a decision. They will likely also be considering options not necessarily discussed at the meeting, such as selling it outright. The primary goal is to get it off the Town’s books, and to have it managed much better than it has been in the past.
Pam Kamphuis is a transplant from New England who has come to appreciate and love the Piedmont area of Virginia in the 25 years she’s been living here, largely through working for the Piedmont Virginian. She is the Production Manager and an editor for the magazine. She lives in Warrenton with her husband Jan, daughter Sarah, two dogs and a cat while also keeping an eye on two grown stepsons and a daughter-in-law at the beach in NC.