Time running out on McDowell House grants

April 30, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

When it rains, water flows off the McDowell House property and into Second Street. There is no storm sewer, so the water goes right back into the basement of the historic house.

Preservation architect Joe Opperman has said that the house and its collection of furniture and portraits are threatened by moisture. 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 McDowell House board of managers has been awarded $325,000 in grants to fix the water problems, but can't spend a dime of it until the city of Danville agrees to install a storm sewer. Deadlines on the grants are approaching, and without a storm sewer the grant money will be lost.

The board asked Danville City Commissioners to fix the problem in November, but was turned down in a split vote. Mayor John W.D. Bowling and commissioners Ryan Owens and Chester Kavanaugh voted against the $11,500 project. Commissioners Terry Crowley and Jamey Gay voted in favor.


Kavanaugh told the group to "get in line" with other local agencies that ask for money during the budget process. McDowell House was back in line Tuesday with the other agencies asking again for the city to install the storm sewer.

In November, Bowling asked why the house couldn't spend some of the grant money to fix the problem, and whether the city would be spending public money on a private project.

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

McDowell House was built for Dr. Ephraim McDowell. 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.

The grants for the house to correct problems on its property were awarded by the National Parks Service Save America's Treasures grant and a James Graham Brown Foundation grants.

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