Years ago, a nice lady who loved the local chapter of an arts-in-education non-profit left the charity her house. I don’t know much about her, other than the fact that she loved cats and left her house to the organization. Located in a nice neighborhood, the house needed some work and to be renovated for office use. Being in a historic district, the renovations had to be done with certain materials, etc. After a capital campaign, two floors were reno’d and the two others were left alone. New window and roof, but nothing more: the walls were stripped to the studs.
The non-profit’s ownership of its own building had pluses and minuses, of course. Fast forward 15-20 years: the organization has grown to the point that the building in its current state could no longer house it comfortably. An ad hoc property committee was formed by the board, and studies were done; despite the slumping real estate market, it would be more cost effective to lease space than attempt a capital campaign and bring upper floors into usable condition. An offer was made relatively quickly, given the market. I’m not sure what the buyers are going to do with the building. There are some features (gorgeous plaster medallions around the chandelier in the foyer, marble fireplace and mantle, cupboards under the stairs, etc.) that I hope they keep.
This past week, the office moved to the new space, which is furnished with newly donated office furniture. Some of the old office furniture was moved, but we had a moving sale on Saturday. Some guys came and disassembled the cubicles, taking them away. Others came to get desks and chairs. After helping clean up and tag things, I sat on the stoop and asked passersby if they needed office furniture. It was a surprisingly successful sales tactic, actually.
Among the flotsam and jetsam were a pile of old black and white photographs. They were being given away free…or tossed at the end of the day. I sorted through them, and found some fascinating pics. Mixed in among the photos were a bank statement (complete with cancelled checks!) from 1962, random newspaper clips, and a variety of stubs for activities in tourist attractions in Iowa, Missouri, Illinois and Colorado. The photos were taken in 1953, during what looks like a cross-country roadtrip by our benefactor (benefactress?). The Lincoln House in Springfield. Royal Gorge on the Arkansas River. The statehouse in Nebraska (I think?). Landscapes in Colorado Springs. There were even a few postcards from the motels she and her companion (Doreen — don’t know anything more about her) stayed in as they drove west, offering a glimpse of Middle America in a bygone era. One postcard notes the number of rooms and amenities, while the handwritten note indicates that the hotel was 16 minutes west off Highway 31, and the room cost only $6.50 per night, with two double beds, plenty of hot water, and a bathroom tiled in peach and green.
I took the photos, but discarded everything else. My intention is to put together an album and give it back to the organization. Even if the NP is no longer in that space, it received a huge gift from her that shouldn’t be forgotten completely as the board and staff turnover.