“We are very happy,” said Elizabeth Rimbault, secretary of Friends of Roswell Butler House after it was announced the group had acquired the house, which is located at 815 First St.
The organization plans to fully restore the building over an estimated seven years. It will be used for cultural and public education programs, serve as the mayor’s ceremonial office and can be used for free by the city and Antioch Unified School District.
Under the plan, the organization must restore the building, which currently sits behind a fence in uninhabitable condition. According to two appraisers, the building has negligible value to the city given the costs to restore a historical property. At the time it was built, the two-story brick house was one of the costliest in the county.
If the nonprofit were to dissolve or the restoration is not complete in seven years, the city can take back the property for no compensation. Any profit from the house would then be transferred to another nonprofit with a similar mission statement to continue the renovation process.
Since its creation in 2009 by the Antioch Historical Society, Friends of Roswell Butler House has been engaged in talks about acquiring the property. Its distinction as a nonprofit organization allows it to apply for state and federal historic preservation grants and be eligible for tax deductions.
According to Rimbault, the organization has received donations of cash and promises of future donations from those eager to see the building repaired. In addition, a licensed contractor has volunteered to remove a back portion of the building that needs to be demolished.
“This is the history of our community,” Rimbault said. “People are excited about this project.”
Early plans call for the house to display items that chronicle the early years of Antioch and the Roswell Butler House. Exhibits and festivities could also be held.
The nonprofit currently has $3,000 in its bank account, said Rimbault, and between $1,000 and $1,500 slated to come in.
The house was purchased by the city’s redevelopment agency for historic preservation with the Lynn House property in 1979. The Lynn House was restored first and now serves as an art gallery, while the Butler House has remained untouched due to the city’s financial woes. It was placed on the State and Federal Registry of Historic Sites in 1993.
The last person to enter the building was an Antioch police officer who departed covered in dust when the floor caved in as he checked the residence during a reported robbery.
Despite the building’s condition, Antioch Mayor Jim Davis expressed confidence in the ability of Friends of Roswell Butler House to restore the landmark. Following Rimbault’s presentation of plans for the house, Davis smiled and said, “This building is worth saving.”