WMA MUSEUM ENDOWMENT BREAKING NEWS
Dear WMA Alumni and Friends of Wentworth:
Today, we are pleased to bring you a double dose of great news. I'm nothing if not known for my flair for dramatic deliveries. But this time, I will cut to the chase and then go into detail on each item:
- The three Main Street buildings that once served as our WMA Museum have sold at a price that exceeds more than double what we purchased them for; and
- The WMA Museum Endowment has purchased the original Wentworth House as the future home of the Wentworth Mansion Hotel.
The Sale of “M1”
When we started this incredible journey in 2018, shortly after Wentworth closed, we filed a lawsuit to save our history, and won. Then we conquered the auction. These victories combined resulted in the obvious need to find a place to house our newly acquired 1,000,000+ Wentworth artifacts. So, we rented the building on the corner of Main Street and 12th Street. Shortly thereafter, with tremendous support from grass roots alumni, we decided to purchase the rented building, the adjoining building, and the accompanying hotel above those two buildings (1124, 1126 and 1128 Main Street). The total acquisition price for those three buildings was $175,000. Subsequently, we purchased the adjoining building next door (1122 Main Street) for $40,000, which became known as the Dragon's Den. Finally, Russ Gilman (and other WMA alumni) assisted us in purchasing the 1-acre grassy lot behind the Museum for $5,000.
From 2018-2021, we worked hard to enhance, customize, and upgrade our original Museum. Today, those investments have more than paid off. The final sales price of M1 was $500,000. We will retain ownership of the one-acre lot behind the former Museum for future revenue producing possibilities.
The sale of M1 means that our endowment is now back over the $1 million threshold - - - as we promised it would be when we dipped into those sacred funds to purchase and renovate the Old Post Office and Wentworth Park to turn them into our Museum's “forever home.”
We wish the new owners of M1 well in all their efforts, as together, we continue to work for the betterment of Lexington and the revitalization of its historic and picturesque downtown.
The Wentworth Mansion
With the loss of our hotel space above M1, our attention shifted to what options were available to house Wentworth Alumni, our construction personnel, and serve as a source of revenue for the WMA Endowment. On a recent visit to Lexington, several of your WMA Museum Executive Committee Members toured properties on a quest to determine if an answer could be found. Some properties were turn-key ready, and others were historic and would require significant renovation.
However, as with just about everything else our effort has experienced, the moon and stars soon aligned to reveal an even more ideal solution: the original Wentworth House. After touring one potential property (the Old AME Church), we were walking down 16th Street on the way back to the Museum. Directly in front of us was the Wentworth House. Things like this don't just happen, and we can only chalk it up to the guiding hand our effort has received from all those Wentworth Old Boys currently formed and assembled on that Great Quadrangle in the Sky.
Although the property was not actively listed, after a little bit of diligence, we were able to broker the private sale of Wentworth's original location (from 1880-1882) and subsequent Superintendent's residence.
The building will be nearly completely overhauled (beginning immediately) to restore many of its historical characteristics, while at the same time being transformed into a functional hotel. While we aim to preserve as much of the original integrity of the building as possible, substantial changes will be required to convert what has over time become a modern home into a functional and world-class boutique hotel for Wentworth alumni and visitors to Lexington.
The cost to purchase the home was $250,000. We estimate the cost of renovations will be at least as much. The endowment has paid the 20% down payment on the bank loan and (along with fundraising initiatives) will pay for the modifications. In the initial years, 100% of the net revenues from the hotel will go to pay off any portion of the mortgage not extinguished from fundraising. If the revenues from the hotel in some months are insufficient to cover the mortgage, the Endowment will cover the shortfall. However, based upon historical revenues from our first hotel, we do not believe that will often be the case. Once the mortgage is extinguished, the revenues will inure to the benefit of the WMA Museum Endowment.
New Debt and Sponsorship Opportunities
With 4 buildings (now 2) and a total of 7 acres (two Wentworth Park site locations and the Goose Pond), the WMA Museum and the WMA Museum Endowment have prided ourselves on being debt-free for the last several years. However, we have decided in the instant case that holding a mortgage-backed asset is the better route to take, at least in the short term. Our hope is that Alumni and friends will help us extinguish the debt on the Wentworth Mansion and assist funding renovations just as you have in the past - - - with incentives flowing bothways.
There are three hotel rooms that were sponsored in the former WMA Hotel:
- John Groendyke (endowed sponsor);
- Scott Hefner (endowed sponsor); and
- Jim and Kathy Cormany (7-year sponsor, expiring November 2026).
These room sponsorships will be carried over to rooms at the future Wentworth Hotel.
However, we need additional sponsors to help extinguish the debt on the Hotel and pay for renovations. Room sponsorships categories (and their affiliated benefits) are as follows:
Endowed Sponsors: $25,000
- Permanent naming rights
- Permanent large bronze plaque on exterior of the room
- Permanent recognition on Wentworth Mansion printed promotional materials
- Up to thirty (30) free night stays per calendar year (based upon availability, including WMA Homecoming weekend) at the Wentworth Mansion (non-transferable).
- Permanent medium cast bronze plaque on exterior of the room
- Temporary naming rights and recognition on Wentworth Mansion printed promotional materials (based upon room availability and until Endowed Sponsorship is established) recognition
- Up to thirty (30) free night stays per calendar year (based upon availability, including WMA Homecoming weekend) at the Wentworth Mansion (non-transferable) for seven (7) years.
Additionally, there will also be two additional sponsorship opportunities: the “Friends of the Wentworth Mansion.” FOWM Member sponsorships categories (and their affiliated benefits) are as follows
- Small cast bronze plaque on the main exterior front porch of the Wentworth Mansion (similar to the room sponsor plaques at Wentworth);
- Three (3) free night stays per calendar year (based upon availability, WMA Homecoming weekend excluded) at the Wentworth Mansion for 10 years ($3,750 value).
- Small cast bronze plaque outside the interior room of your choosing at the Wentworth Mansion (similar to the room sponsor plaques at Wentworth);
- Two free night stays per calendar year (based upon availability, WMA Homecoming weekend excluded) at the Wentworth Mansion for 10 years ($2,500 value).
100% of the funds raised for room sponsorships and “Friends of the Wentworth Mansion” will immediately be used to buy-down the mortgage or for renovations. Once renovations are completed and the mortgage is extinguished, all excess funds will be deposited into a separate WMA Museum Endowment account for support, upkeep, promotion, and preservation of this iconic Wentworth historic asset. We currently have a world-class Museum, and our goal is to have a world-class boutique hotel in the exact place where Wentworth Faculty once taught, and our earliest cadets rested their heads at the end of those cold Missouri days.
Please click here and then click the red "Make a Custom Donation" button in the header graphic for sponsorship opportunities.
Friends, I'm not sure if we could have delivered better news, but we have done, and will continue to do, our best. The future is bright, our mission is noble, and our determination to preserve Wentworth's legacy knows no limit.
Achieve The Honorable
George J. Hittner
WMA Museum Endowment Co-Trustee
WMA Museum Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus
WMA Classes of 1992, 1995 and 1997