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Gen. Martin Mansion renovation project in Martinsburg to start in 2014

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MARTINSBURG — Efforts to stabilize and restore a historic mansion are expected to finally move forward this spring, thanks to new state grant funding.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Hamish Davey, Lewis County Historical Society board member and chairman of its Gen. Walter Martin Mansion Committee.

The society is planning a $220,000 project to repair and prevent further deterioration at the more than 200-year-old structure, funded primarily through a $165,000 grant from the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and announced as part of the Regional Economic Development Council awards.

The society must come up with a $55,000 local match for the project, expected to take more than a year to complete, but that may include $17,000 in donated services.

The state grant program will require the society to first submit paid bills and in-kind claims before receiving 75 percent reimbursement, according to Jerry E. Perrin, office manager at the nonprofit organization.

The society already has put a portion of the required local match into an endowment fund using past donations and half the proceeds from the Home for the Holidays Festival and Black River Valley Concert Series over the past couple of years, Mr. Perrin said.

However, more donations will be needed to undertake all the repairs, he said.

“Any contribution actually brings in three times the value,” Mr. Davey said. “This money will go directly” into the restoration of the building.

The society in 2005 purchased the mansion, the former home of the Greystone Manor restaurant, using funding from an anonymous donor and Flat Rock Windpower, which was developing the Maple Ridge Wind Farm. The structure was added to the state and national registers of historic places in 2008.

Volunteers over the years have spent plenty of time cleaning up the 28-room, two-story structure and doing maintenance projects that didn’t require professional contractors, such as patching roofs, securing windows, installing an alarm system and removing carpeting and other materials that would draw moisture.

Some masonry work was done last summer, using a $10,000 state grant secured through state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, and a $25,000 federal Environmental Protection Act grant has funded a comprehensive building condition assessment by Syracuse architectural firm Crawford & Stearns.

The upcoming project, to be administered by the firm, would stabilize the building’s structure, replace the roofing, repair or reconstruct chimneys and other masonry, reconstruct the southeast porch and roof, repair the front steps, waterproof the west foundation wall and improve drainage.

“Once the building is stabilized, the Society will submit grant proposals each year to restore an element or elements of the building, such as windows, interior restoration, etc.,” according to the grant application submitted to the state.

The mansion now essentially is used only during the annual Martinsburg Day for displays. However, once renovation work is completed, society officials hope to use the structure for year-round displays featuring the history of the county and Gen. Martin and other items of local interest, as well as lectures, programs and fundraising events.

The 10,264-square-foot limestone mansion, built from 1803 to 1805, originally was the home of Gen. Walter Martin, for whom Martinsburg is named.

Contributions may be specified for the “Gen. Walter Martin Mansion Restoration Fund.”Anyone interested in helping to fund the restoration effort can call the society at 376-8957, send a letter to 7552 S. State St., Lowville, N.Y. 13367 or send an email to lewiscountyhistoricalsociety@gmail.com.

Society officials said they have been spending roughly $2,000 per year to maintain the property, primarily for mowing, while awaiting grant funding to properly refurbish the building.

Besides a restaurant, the mansion also has been used as a tavern, convalescent home for Canadian soldiers of World War I and nursing home.

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