Historic house sees event rentals as preservation

April 27, 2012
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(Photo by Lori DeSantis) The Loring-Greenough House and its garden at 12 South St.

MONUMENT SQ.—The historic Loring-Greenough House is now marketing itself as a unique event-rental spot to boost preservation funds for the 1760 mansion.

The 12 South St. mansion is already home to many well-attended arts and cultural events, and offers tours. But those events break even at best financially, said Edward Stanley, president of the Jamaica Plain Tuesday Club, the nonprofit that owns and operates the property.

“This is a 251-year-old Colonial mansion,” Stanley told the Gazette. “Needless to say…the house and grounds constantly need maintenance and preservation work.”

The mansion’s new role as a wedding and corporate event rental space kicks off Sun., April 29 with “The Wedding Party,” a wedding-planning vendor event.

The basic rental rates are $1,950 for indoor events and $2,850 for indoor/outdoor events, and more for longer events. That will “provide some needed earned income to preserve the property,” Stanley said.

The Tuesday Club also will seek to boost membership in its organization and increase its endowment, which currently is “by no means enough right now for all our expenses,” Stanley said.

In the longer term, it is also looking to renovate the little-used 1811 addition on the back of the house, possibly as public meeting space.

All such efforts will stick to guidelines laid out in a recently updated strategic plan that will be publicized shortly, Stanley said.

The house draws many visitors with an array of existing programs, including concerts, poetry readings, historic re-enactments, tours, a farmer’s market and food trucks in the parking lot. But, Stanley said, those events make no money or only cover utility costs, and often do little to involve people in the house’s history and preservation.

“These activities are primarily looked at by our organization as a community service,” Stanley said. “At the moment, we don’t look at those programs as income-producing.”

Similar concerns recently arose at Forest Hills Cemetery, which is reviewing its slate of popular arts programming for cost-effectiveness and historic tie-ins. The Loring-Greenough House will continue its programming, Stanley said, including such events as a War of 1812 commemoration in June.

The house was long known as a largely quiet museum, a “perception” that Stanley said the Tuesday Club wants to get away from.

“It’s very, very difficult for small house museums to survive just by having people coming in and taking tours,” he said. “There has to be more interest and draw for people these days.”

The house and its gardens have previously hosted weddings, but those were all by request, not by marketing. The Tuesday Club now has a specific event rental agent, Edana Spicker, at work.

The house also recently underwent renovation and rehab work to spruce it up for event rentals. One room was turned into a “very comfortable” space for a bride or groom to prepare for a wedding, along with a “wood-paneled Victorian bathroom,” Stanley said.

The house was built by Joshua Loring, a Tory who was driven out during the Revolution, when the house served as a military hospital. The Greenough family owned it for 140 years until 1924, when the Tuesday Club purchased it to save it from demolition.

For more information, call 617-524-3158 or see loring-greenough.org.