1852 Foundation Statement
March 21st, 2023
We have a very unfortunate announcement. The 1852 Foundation will close the Fowler House this year. After eight years it has unfortunately become apparent that we just aren’t going to make it financially. We will wind down the restaurant over the next several months. We will honor all of our booked weddings and events this year and next.
At this time, we are actively seeking new uses for the Fowler House under the 1852 Foundation. We intend to preserve and maintain the historical integrity of the house, but most likely will not be able to keep the house open to the public as we do currently. After we wind down the restaurant and our remaining weddings we will try to get the house rezoned as residential to cut our tax burden by half. We hope another opportunity to make it publicly accessible will present itself in the near future. We will definitely pursue all options.
The 1852 Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit organization that my family and I created in 2015, and I have been operating as the President of the Board since its inception. Over the past eight years we have donated over 2 million dollars to preserve and maintain the house. The idea that we provide basic related services like catering or dinner service instead of surviving only on donations is one of our key missions. That means the house can live long term with some financial certainty and NOT be a charity fundraising burden for the community, which provides a far less certain future. I think we have proven this model can work, but you must have government on your side. In this case we do not.
Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020, we had finally achieved our goal of financial independence and held high hopes for the future of the Fowler House. Unfortunately, COVID-19 decimated the hospitality industry. We’ve had to donate another 1.5 million dollars to keep the house and our staff through since the start of COVID-19. In that time we made some changes to function as a restaurant and keep our employees paid. Although we are doing far less revenue as a restaurant, we are actually serving our core mission of keeping the house accessible to the community significantly more effectively. Many more people get to do the tour without a wedding crowd and explore the house on their own. We do many more group tours and can spend a lot more time with each tour.
We nearly made it, but we’ve got a conflict with our County assessor Eric Grossman who keeps trying to take our exemption away. We have retained it on appeal in years past. We lost our exemption again this year and went to an appeal hearing last week. We are waiting to hear if we won. We are not hopeful.
What’s at risk here is a $20,000 per year tax bill. The 1852 Foundation cannot bear that. We already have a backlog of over $250k in deferred maintenance we need to fund. Twenty thousand a year off the top will just bleed us dry faster and the house will suffer. The assessor isn’t our only challenge, this is just the straw that’s broken the non-profit’s back.
We don’t know if we will get our exemption back, but whether we do this year or not, it’s clear the assessor intends to take our exemption one way or another. We can no longer continue to dump thousands into legal costs to defend ourselves when we have leaks to repair, and the outcome is likely preordained against us. The Assessor just got reelected last fall, so we are bowing out.
We have contacted Sheila Klinker and Ron Alting asking them to try to amend legislation and create a clearer spot for historic properties in our tax code, one that these historic properties will not have to defend each year. I’m sure they’ll get something fixed for other properties around the state in the coming legislative cycles, but it won’t be in time for our survival.
To be clear, we intend to honor all future weddings and events booked. The restaurant will continue lunch and dinner service Wed-Sat 11-2 and 5-9, and Brunch on Sundays 10-2 for at least the next two months. We will announce permanent closing dates in the near future.
Please, if you have any ideas or see any opportunities for the Fowler to remain open to the public contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org