Mansion to mark 150 years with gala

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published August 2, 2017

FARMINGTON — Gentlemen, dust off your three-piece suits, and don’t forget to curl those mustaches.

Ladies, ready your pleated-skirt evening gowns and fitted bodices — it’s time to celebrate 1860s style with a 150th anniversary gala at the Governor Warner Mansion.

“Men have had pretty much the same style over the years, except that from time to time the number of buttons on the jacket changed, and sometimes the length of the jacket changed,” Warner Mansion Volunteer Coordinator Jean Schornick said via email.

Suiting up is in order because this year also marks the 150th year since the city’s incorporation in 1867. Farmington’s history goes back even further to its founding in 1824 — 193 years ago.

The mansion was completed in 1867 by P.D. Warner, father to Michigan’s 26th governor, Fred Warner.

Schornick said that the gala will celebrate the sesquicentennial at 6 p.m. Aug. 12.

“I think they thought this was a nice spot to build a house,” Schornick said of the Warner family.

The historical Victorian Italianate home is a community hub with a city park on its grounds that is a popular place to take pictures, eat lunch or unwind.

When the mansion is closed — it is open 1-5 p.m. Wednesdays and the first Sunday of the month — people can visit the grounds, including on the porch.

Schornick said that the historical hangout spot is, however, in “dire need” of repair.

 An addition at the back of the house needs a number of repairs after being built around 1889 — it is pulling away from the house.

The exterior needs a paint job, there are missing bricks in the driveway, and the list goes on. 

Mansion Director Kim Shay said that total estimates are, on the low end, around $200,000.

Shay said that other mansion work includes foundation work and a new roof.

Schornick added that the adjacent Carriage House is also in desperate need of work.

Through funds from events like tea parties, an annual fashion show and more, an account was created for upkeep and maintenance work on the mansion.

“Right now, she (Shay) is trying to gather interest from people in the community who would be willing to donate larger sums of money,” Schornick said, adding that the events the mansion holds do not drum up large sums of money. “We can’t do it (make expensive repairs) with tea parties and fashion shows, so we are seeking other donors who would be more generous and give us money to support the place.”

Schornick added that the hope is to raise money to preserve the house for the city of Farmington and future generations.

“People go by and see this white house sitting here on about 3 acres of land — it is a very pretty place,” Schornick said.

In addition to finding community support, the gala is another avenue to help keep things moving for the mansion.

The event, tickets for which cost $75 per ticket, will feature live and silent auctions, a strolling dinner, and live music by the Big Band Theory.

“The gala — we expect it to be a very pretty event,” Schornick said, adding that the silent auction will feature trips to Ireland and more.

Schornick added that the semi-formal event would have seen different attire 150 years ago.

“I think that they would have been quite dressed up,” Schornick said, adding that in 1904 there was a party on the mansion grounds where Mrs. Warner cooked chicken for a group of newspaper editors. “I know that the Warners were temperance people, so they probably wouldn’t have anything alcoholic — but there would have been punch.”

Shay said that attendees are invited to take a tour inside the mansion.

“The house will be open so people can mill through the house and (hear) the music,” she said.

The deadline to sign up for tickets is 4:30 p.m. Aug. 4. Tickets may be purchased by phone or in person at City Hall. 

For more information, find the mansion on Facebook, call the Farmington City Clerk’s Office at (248) 474-5500, ext. 2225, or go to www.ci.farmington.mi.us.