City turns down McDowell House's request for help

November 12, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

Danville City Commissioners, in a split vote Monday, turned down a request from the McDowell House board of managers to fix the city's drainage problems on Second Street.

Commissioners Ryan Owens and Chester Kavanaugh and Mayor John W.D. Bowling voted to turn down the request while Commissioners Terry Crowley and Jamey Gay voted in favor of it.

McDowell House and its collections of furniture and portraits are threatened by moisture, preservationist Joe Opperman told commissioners.

Kavanaugh said that he could not justify fixing the problem before the commissioners address other residents' storm water issues.

Bowling first asked why McDowell House couldn't spend some of its $300,000 grant monies to fix the problem. Then he said that he questioned whether the city would be spending public money on a private project, if it helped.

Opperman explained that the city would be building a storm water collection system on city property and that the work would fix drainage problems all along Second Street.


"If we don't fund you, what are you going to do?" Bowling said. "You'll find the money somewhere."

Carol Senn, executive director of McDowell House, said the board had never asked the city for money before, and said that the museum attracts a large amount of tourists to the area.

McDowell House was built for Dr. Ephraim McDowell in downtown Danville. He performed the first successful abdominal surgery in 1809 when he removed a 22-pound ovarian tumor from a patient.

The home was dedicated as a museum in 1939 and has been open to the public ever since.

Water runs from the yard and the roof into the basement. There are mushrooms growing on a basement wall and the house has lost two furnaces in 20 years.

The board plans to spend $300,000 to correct water problems on its property. That money comes from a National Parks Service Save America's Treasures grant and a James Graham Brown Foundation grant.

The water can be stopped from running into the basement, but there is no outlet for it on Second Street. The board asked the city to construct a new storm water collection system.

Crowley said that the House should be considered a city treasure. He said that he was amazed that it was built at the same time that the Lewis and Clark expedition was beginning in St. Louis.

Kavanaugh said he isn't against the house but believes that the project shouldn't be treated differently than other storm water complaints the city has received from residents.

"You need to get in line with everyone else," he said. He also advised them to contact the stormwater committee.

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