One of Meadville's iconic buildings on Diamond Park, the historic Tarr mansion, is now owned by the Crawford County Historical Society.
The ornate brick building, dating from the 1860s, has been purchased by the Historical Society for $365,000 to serve as the organization's headquarters, according to Josh Sherretts, president of the Historical Society. Closing on the deal with now former owners Ed and Charlotte (Charlie) Sternby was completed this week.
"We are thrilled, but it's still sinking in — the thought of it and what we have to do," Sherretts said of the purchase.
In October 2014, the Historical Society began a $630,000 capital campaign to fund the purchase and restoration of the building.
"We're a tad above $300,000," Sherretts said of the amount raised so far during a joint interview Wednesday with the Sternbys. "We put $65,000 toward the purchase and Northwest Savings came through with a $300,000 mortgage for 20 years. The rents will cover the mortgage. The goal now is to raise money toward the renovation project."
Plans call for part of the mansion to either remain apartments as it is now, or be leased for records storage by local government — either one generating income, Sherretts said. If the upper floors of the building remain apartments, the Historical Society projects to earn a net profit of $15,000 a year or if the upper floors are government record storage, a net profit of $39,000 a year with the money put toward a maintenance fund.
The Sternbys, who have owned the property since 1976, are happy to have the Tarr property in the hands of the Historical Society.
"I'm 77 years old and there comes a certain point when you have to pass things along," Ed said. "We're thrilled. That's what we wanted to do from the beginning."
"We're delighted the Tarr mansion is receiving the recognition it deserves for its historical significance and ties to the birth of the oil industry in Titusville," Charlie said. "It's a perfect fit as the home of the Crawford County Historical Society in an appropriate and self-sustaining building."
The Tarr mansion was built in 1866-67 by James Tarr of Titusville, one of the nation's first oil millionaires, as a new home for the Tarr family. The building currently has 11 apartment units that could be rehabilitated back into its previous form, according to Sherretts.
About two years ago, the Tarr mansion faced a potential demolition threat as part of a courthouse expansion project. Crawford County government thought the property might by needed for a new county administration building. After public meetings on the project, the commissioners assured the Historical Society the county wasn't interested the Tarr mansion if the Historical Society was going to buy and preserve it.
With the building in the Historical Society's hands, the goal now is to raise money toward the renovation, Sherretts said.
"We went to some donors previously, but they didn't want to donate if the building wasn't in the Historical Society's hands," Sherretts said.
The Tarr mansion gives the Historical Society more room for its archives, Sherretts said. The Historical Society currently is housed in 3,000 to 4,000 square feet of space in a building on Chestnut Street owned by Meadville Public Library, he said. The Tarr mansion has about 13,000 square feet of space, he said.
"Our preliminary goal is to move in next fall," Sherretts said. "We'd love to have it sooner. We're going to have to decide what (in our collection) is going to go where."
Renovation work to the building won't begin until 2016, Sherretts said.
"After the first of the year, we'll start to do some work," Sherretts said. "I'd like to get our contractor in to take a peek, but we won't do exterior work until the spring."
The building is in good shape, according to Sherretts. While the building was carved up into apartments in the 1930s and 1940s, most of the rooms had their door frames framed in to create walls, making it easy to remove them to restore the original look, he said.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.
You can help
Donations to the Crawford County Historical Society are tax-deductible. Donations to the Tarr mansion for its restoration may be pledged and made payable for up to three years. Checks may be made to Crawford County Historical Society with "Tarr mansion restoration" on the memo line and mailed to Crawford County Historical Society, P.O. Box 871, Meadville, Pa. 16335. More information is available on the Historical Society's website, crawfordhistorical.org.
By the numbers
The Crawford County Historical Society estimates total acquisition and restoration costs of the Tarr mansion at $630,000. The breakdown is:
• Net property acquisition cost: $365,000
• Immediate exterior restoration (paint and brick work): $40,000
• Restoration of hall and immediate Historical Society use areas: $75,000
• Install handicapped accessible ramp: $10,000
• Heating, ventilation and air conditioning installation: $80,000
• Fixtures and furnishings: $10,000
• Balcony and window repair: $50,000