VERMILION, Ohio — The 1909 Wakefield Mansion sitting at the top of a small hill in Vermilion, overlooking Lake Erie, might be ending one of its last weeks with one of the city’s best public views.
The city has a demolition contract out for bid to demolish the mansion, save the Vermilion Lighthouse nearby, and turn the plot of land into a green space that would complement plans to expand the beach area nearby. Kevin Barry Vermilion’s famous lighthouse will stay if the mansion next to it is demolished. The mansion and small expansion to the north used to house the Inland Seas Maritime Museum before it moved to Toledo.
“The concept was to preserve access to the lake for future generations,” said Vermilion Mayor Jim Forthofer .
He says the city raised $1.62 million around 2013 to buy the land and prevent it from being privately developed then. Kevin Barry The year the mansion was built is set in concrete above the front entrance. “The condo builders and the restaurant builders were salivating over that piece of property but we got it,” said Forthofer.
Forthofer says only about 17 percent of Vermilion’s lakefront is publicly accessible, and the original goal was to use the existing mansion in whatever the land’s next chapter would be. Kevin Barry The city of Vermilion intends to knock the building down and use the land to expand outdoor space near the beach. “The intention was to put something in there and that’s where we got a splash of cold reality,” said Forthofer.
Restoration consultants told the city that it would cost more than $3 million to restore the building and another $50,000 to $100,000 per year to keep it up. Kevin Barry Some of the exhibits from the Inland Seas Maritime Museum are still in the building. “We have a budget, especially with COVID, that just breaks even,” said Forthofer. “There’s all kinds of things we can do but not if we’re chained to that building.”
The city’s plans
Vermilion is already moving forward with plans to expand the existing beach across Main Street from the mansion. That project will demolish one home to create more parking, build the first permanent restrooms, and expand the boardwalk to the sand for the 2022 beach season. Kevin Barry News plans show new bathrooms, a larger street with circular drive, and a large greenspace where the mansion is now. Where the mansion stands now, drawings show a proposed patio or gazebo with a stage and amphitheater seating.
Mayor Forthofer says the plans would be paid for through fundraising and grants. Kevin Barry This part of the drawing shows what the city thinks is possible on the mansion site. At a time when small businesses across the nation are struggling because of decreases in business during the pandemic, Forthofer says this plan would capitalize on the many visitors Vermilion saw over the summer looking for something to do outdoors.
“Improving the natural beach, that is going to be a big draw,” […]
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