A cooperative solution for Obici House

Published 7:12 pm Thursday, January 14, 2010

To the Editor:

Tearing down the once-grand Obici House because no one group has the money to finance the entire restoration would be a travesty.

The 18th hole at Sleepy Hole is acclaimed as the best in Tidewater not just because of the waterfront location. Lots of golf courses have that. It is the backdrop of the Obici mansion that helps make it special. A restored mansion would make it one of the most scenic holes in all of golf.

The Suffolk Professional Firefighters Union has the spirit and the labor to restore the house at greatly reduced costs. The Citizens for the Preservation of Obici House group has access to grants and donations unique to restoring sites on the U.S. Registry of Historic Homes. And the golf course leaseholder has money designated for a large new clubhouse designed to attract corporate outings and other special events — but the best sites for this are already occupied.

The solution? Sacrifice the carriage house. It is peripheral to the architectural grandeur of the main house. It would free up space for a new clubhouse with the coveted river/sunset/18th hole views intact, extending from where the current putting green is located.

Because the restored Obici House would be just a covered patio away, it could be used by the golf course for its high-end corporate and membership events. This would allow the clubhouse itself to be more in scale with other private clubs in the area, with part of the money saved used in the restoration.

The firefighters and preservationists also could have designated times for using the house, in rough proportion to the amount of resources contributed.

Even the citizens of Suffolk — who still own the property, by the way — would benefit. It could once again be rented from the above groups for magnificent weddings and other special events.

Most important, this plan would preserve our history and give us something very special to be proud of.