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Published: Thursday, 1/21/2010

Hayes trustees closing elegant Fremont's Dillon House

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FREMONT - The Dillon House, an extension of the Hayes Presidential Center for nearly 50 years, will no longer host its signature Victorian teas - or any other events, for that matter.

Hayes trustees have decided to close the elaborate house as part of their continuing efforts to cut costs in light of a 45 percent state budget reduction.

"When we were making up the budget, we weighed all sorts of different options," said Thomas Culbertson, executive director. "Everything's on the table and you get drastic cuts like we had, and the Dillon House was one of the logical things to look at."

Purchased by the Hayes Center in 1962, the Dillon House only has indirect ties to the 19th president and his wife, Lucy Hayes.

"The house was built by an early law partner of Rutherford Hayes, Ralph Buckland, as a wedding present to his daughter who married a fellow named Charles Dillon," Mr. Culbertson said. "They were the first close neighbors of

Rutherford and Lucy Hayes."

The brick Victorian house with black walnut and butternut interior woodwork for a time was used by visiting researchers while they worked at the Hayes center. Later it was opened to members of the center who could rent rooms for overnight stays.

More recently, it was used for events such as the Victorian teas that had been offered since 1997. It also was rented to the public for weddings, rehearsal dinners, showers, and business meetings.

Nancy Kleinhenz, marketing manager, said the last wedding was held at the Dillon House earlier this month.

The house "was an income generator, but I'm afraid the income was offset by the expenses for the most part," she said, adding utilities ran nearly $1,000 a month.

The Hayes Presidential Center is owned by the state and receives an annual appropriation through the Ohio Historical Society in addition to relying on revenue from the Hayes Foundation and memberships and rentals to operate.

The most recent state budget reduced the center's annual appropriation from $504,037 to $281,043.

Mr. Culbertson said the Board of Trustees has not decided whether to try to sell the Dillon House. Reopening it seems unlikely when staff members took a 10 percent pay cut, the presidential center is now closed on Mondays, admission prices were increased, and the center is no longer matching employees' 401K contributions.

"You have to weigh those things versus the Dillon House, then we have to figure out in this kind of housing market, is it an opportune time to sell or not?" he said. "I would guess it's not the greatest time, but when you've got ongoing expenses of upkeep and utilities what is a good time to sell?"

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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