Bringing the Tallman House back to life
WCLO's Beth Wheelock previews what the city council will hear Monday.
On the agenda
The Janesville City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.
Items on the agenda include:
-- A review of the Lincoln-Tallman House five-year conditions report and business plan.
-- A request to permanently waive the $525 special-event fee and the $1,600 equipment fee for the Janesville Farmers Market.
-- Action to buy and demolish a structure at 410 N. Pearl St. and to buy and renovate a structure at 808 W. Holmes St.
JANESVILLE A city committee charged with creating a business plan for the Lincoln-Tallman House believes it is possible to increase attendance by 40 percent over five years.
The committee will ask the Janesville City Council on Monday to accept the proposed five-year business plan.
Suggestions include renting the house for weddings and business events, hiring a part-time event coordinator and building a catering kitchen in the carriage barn.
The Tallman House is a museum run by the Rock County Historic Society and owned by the city. Buildings on the grounds include the carriage barn, which, along with the house, needs extensive repairs, and the Wilson-King Stone House.
Admission revenue from the house has declined from a peak of $30,028 in 2001 to a low of $10,031 in 2009.
The council wants the society to increase attendance—especially repeat visits—to lower the city subsidy. In 2009, the city gave the historical society a $50,000 subsidy and another $2,545 for maintenance.
The committee also was asked how to best accomplish extensive repairs to the exterior of the Tallman House. That committee broke into two subcommittees.
"I think that the committee did a pretty good job at looking at all the issues," Brad Cantrell, community development director, said.
"They really spent a lot of time and effort and went into some detail...to really make (the Tallman House) more of a community facility rather than just a house museum."
The business plan subcommittee interviewed directors of successful house museums. The goal is to encourage events "that make the home more alive and that ties it back into the community," Cantrell said.
The committee said such events could increase attendance by about 40 percent over five years.
The artifacts and buildings must be protected even as greater access to the public is allowed, according to the committee report. The city subsidy can be reduced but not eliminated, members concluded.
The goal could be accomplished by:
-- Increasing advertising and marketing, especially by encouraging repeat visits and group tours.
-- Renting portions of the house for small business meetings, weddings and receptions.
-- Renovating the carriage barn to include a prep kitchen to cater gatherings in the house and on the grounds. Estimated cost: $280,000. Estimated revenue: $14,000.
-- Increasing the number of events to be conducted and hosted on the grounds. Estimated revenue: $65,000.
-- Hiring a part-time employee to coordinate events and write grants. Estimated cost: $25,000.
-- Expanding programming and establishing four fundraising activities on the grounds each year. Events could include the Tallman Art Festival, holiday tours, Mother's Day and Father's Day activities, antique shows, picnics and concerts on the lawn, appraisal fairs, dinner parties and wine tastings.
-- Partnering with other community organizations such as Rotary Gardens, the Janesville Concert Association, the Beloit-Janesville Symphony and the library to organize events such as heirloom gardening programs, summer lawn concerts and exhibits inspired from popular books.
-- Improving the website and using free social media outlets such as Facebook to develop a base of supporters.
-- Developing specialty merchandise related to the Tallman House.
-- Moving the archives and collections out of the Stone House and into a renovated Charles Tallman House, 430 N. Jackson St. Rent the Stone House to another non-profit for revenue.
Some other costs include adding lighting to the home, $5,000; buying an accessible lift, $15,000; renovating the bathrooms, $30,000; and adding signs, $2,000.
Tallman House repair costs lowered but still high
Renovations to the Lincoln-Tallman House could cost half of what an architect estimated last year.
Original estimates put total repairs at $3.39 million. The revised estimate is $1.76 million, a committee recently estimated. The committee was charged by the Janesville City Council with devising a plan on how to best go about the renovations. It will make its report to the council on Monday,
A collapsing privy wall, for example, was repaired for $8,500 rather than for the architect's estimate of $32,500. The wall needed immediate repair, as did the roof, which received a temporary fix. The council put the rest of the repairs on hold, waiting for the recommendations of the committee.
Major conditions threatening the building include:
-- A leaning retaining wall.
-- Eroding mortar joints.
-- Peeling paint.
-- Rotting ornamental woodwork.
-- Rotting soffits and brackets.
-- Chronic leaking of the gutters.
-- A roof that needs replacing.
The most significant cost difference came when the committee decided to replace the roof with a red prefinish metal roof instead of a red-painted copper roof.
A structural engineer also did not believe the basement wall mortar joints needed repair because the foundation is structurally sound. Solving the water drainage issues around the outside of the building should reduce or eliminate an efflorescence problem, as well, he said.
The committee recommended that the council approve the exterior improvements according to priority over multiple years. It also urged the city to seek money from trusts and foundations. The committee believes the city still will have to commit to covering a minimum of half of the improvement costs.
The city has $310,000 available from previous borrowing for Lincoln-Tallman House improvements. The committee recommends that the city borrow at least $500,000 in 2010 and $60,000 in 2011 to start repairs. It also recommends a private fundraising campaign.
"The committee believes that an early, substantial public commitment to the project may facilitate interest and support from trusts and foundations," according to the report.
The committee recommends that improvements to the carriage house on the grounds be made at the same time.