One of Lebanon’s iconic historic landmarks could be on the market in the foreseeable future.
The Warren County Historical Society announced via social media Tuesday that it must part with the Glendower Historic Mansion that sits on more than 3.77 acres at 105 Cincinnati Ave., just south of the heart of downtown Lebanon. According to the county Auditor’s Office, the 4,424 square-foot Greek Revival mansion was built in 1840.
The society, which is tax-exempt, acquired the mansion from the Ohio History Connection in December 2007, according to the Auditor’s Office website.
“It is with a heavy heart that we must part with the beautiful house museum known as Glendower Historic Mansion. Unfortunately, we can no longer afford to maintain the property,” the Historical Society’s social media announcement said.
Michael Coyan, the society’s executive director, said the board is expected to vote in the next few weeks to place the property and its mansion (18 rooms, attic and basement), on the market in the next month.
Coyan said the Glendower mansion was where the county historical society was established in 1940. According to the county Auditor’s Office, the true value of the land and mansion was listed at $329,180 as of Jan. 1, 2022, according to its website.
Coyan said the rising costs of maintaining the mansion and declining attendance are the top reasons for selling the property. Coyan said it costs $1,300 a month to mow the grass. The mansion, which is on the National Historic Places Registry, does not have a sprinkler system and that triples the cost of insurance. The only restroom is in the basement, there is no accessibility for those with mobility issues and there are challenges with staffing.
“We’ve worked for the past three years to add more programming there, but have not been successful,” he said. “The board had to make a decision because of the rising costs of utilities and maintenance.
“It’s a bittersweet decision and no one wanted it to come to that,” Coyan said.
WCHS is a private nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and receives most of its operating budget from admissions, event ticketing and private donations, with some appreciated government support. Coyan said it was the society’s hope that when it launched its $5 million “Celebrate Our Future” capital campaign, they would acquire the funds needed to maintain Glendower Historic Mansion and Arboretum. However, those hopes were not fulfilled, he said.
Coyan said the historic home was closed to visitors last Christmas and did not reopen in 2023. Currently, the society staff is doing an inventory of the mansion. Some items will be transferred to the Ohio History Connection, and much of the contents will be moved to the Harmon Museum in downtown Lebanon, he said. Coyan said the board is working with an appraiser to determine a sale price.
“We’re looking for someone to maintain the home, he said.
Coyan said only five families had lived at Glendower, and two of those families had children. He also noted that there are three cypress trees on the property that have been there since 1840, and that they were a gift from Henry Clay, who represented Kentucky in the U.S. House and Senate and served as the nation’s ninth Secretary of State. Clay also ran for president, losing three times.
John Zimkus, a local historian and educational director for the county historical society said, “it’s a sad situation. It’s such a beautiful house.”
Zimkus said Glendower was the the first of five mansions built in the city’s Floraville Hill section. He said after Glendower was constructed, the other mansions followed. Zimkus also said at one time, that section was supposed to be a town separate from Lebanon.
Like Coyan, Zimkus said there are a lot of people in the city who would like the new owner to continue restoration work on the mansion and that they appreciate it’s historic significance in the community.
“The new owner won’t have any trouble finding its history,” he said.
Zimkus said the society explored various options and possible partnerships, but none were achieved. The society hosted various events at Glendower but revenues did not cover expenses.
“We were warned 15-20 years ago that historical homes without a direct connection to a historical figure would struggle financially,” he said. “It was always popular around Christmastime, but there was no money coming other times of the year. It was not an easy decision for the board to make.”