Dayton House board establishes fund for future
WORTHINGTON -- Every homeowner knows that along with the joys of ownership come expenses -- expected and unexpected. The Historic Dayton House -- the fully restored 1890s home that was once the residence of George Dayton, founder of the Dayton and Target retail store empire -- is no exception.
As a facility that is used by the public for gatherings, lodging and tours, the Dayton House not only encounters the normal costs incurred by any functioning residence, but also must keep its facilities guest-ready all the time and be prepared for any unexpected expenses.
"People don't realize all the wear and tear and upkeep," that come with running such a facility, noted Becky Schilling, Dayton House manager. "They can just come in and use it; they don't have to get anything ready at their homes. We get everything ready, wash and iron the linens, set up the tables, and they can just walk in, come in and use whatever they need to use, and we do all the rest. We need to make sure that their party is awesome and that they have heat and air conditioning when they need it."
The structure, which sat empty for a number of years after use as a nursing facility, was purchased in October 2002 by Historic Worthington Inc., and was subsequently restored to its former glory at a cost of about $2 million. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.
"Even before we had the restoration done, we had begun to put together an operational budget, but because we didn't have any experience in operating the house, we didn't know what we'd need," recalled Jerry Fiola, president of the board. "We had anticipated having some sort of reserve, maybe $250,000 to $300,000, and had projected needing to spend the interest off those monies to just operate on a year-to-year basis. ... By the time we got done with the whole project, we just had a few remaining monies in reserves, and so we knew we weren't going to be able to put together an endowment at that time. We had just finished a $2.2 million renovation, and we weren't going to go out and try to raise additional monies, so we proceeded to operate within our means."
After a couple of years of operating in the red, to the tune of about $10,000 to $15,000 a year, Fiola estimated, the Dayton House is now in the black, clearing an additional $5,000 to $10,000 per year. And after encountering a few significant expenses in upkeep, its overseers feel the time is right to pursue an endowment to ensure the house is in tip-top financial shape for the future.
"Even though it's an older house, we've started here with everything refurbished or new -- new shingles, new paint job, new furnace," Fiola said. "But we anticipate that sooner or later, things are going to start to go wrong and need to be replaced or repaired. Even within the first year or two, we had to replace a $4,500 commercial dishwasher and repair the porch several times. The most recent porch repair was the most costly. We've had to do a furnace repair already, and sooner or later we're going to need to do a full paint job on the house."
The Dayton House recently received a grant from the Worthington Area Foundation to help fund the most recent porch repair, but board members realize that a more permanent source of upkeep monies is needed. By establishing an endowment fund and placing the monies in an interest-generating account of some sort, the board anticipates that future repairs and upkeep costs could be funded by the interest, with the principal amount remaining intact.
"We're just trying to be good stewards," Fiola continued, "knowing the eventually we're going to get to the point where the cost of these repairs can't currently be supported within the operational budget. As soon as we end up with a major repair bill, from the standpoint of reserves, we're going to be broke."
A target amount for the endowment fund has yet to be established, pending research on probable repair costs.
"One of the things we're attempting to do is get an estimate of what a full painting of the house would cost, depreciation on a roof, other equipment, and build a long-range facility plan based on what we would need in the future over the next 20 to 30 years to support the house as it is," Fiola explained. "I think our original target of $250,000 to $300,000 was not a bad figure. ... We're just trying to make sure that whatever the repairs are that we have to make, that we essentially have a budget we can take those costs out of without having to take that from the operational budget."
The initial novelty of the historic home's renovation has worn off and the requests for tours have diminished somewhat, but the Dayton House staff and board members are encouraged by the ongoing usage of the facility. They especially see increased potential for growth as a bed-and-breakfast establishment.
"It shows that the community is willing to support it, and that it fills a community need," Fiola said about the house's bookings for parties and lodging. "We want to continue to build those different aspects of the business. ... We're always trying to look at the added value and have received a state historical grant to be able to display and present artifacts from Worthington's history, including the original residents of the house. When we finish that project, we think it will bring increased interest to the house and increase the interest in the community."
The Historic Dayton House is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and donations for the endowment fund qualify for a tax deduction. For more information about the Dayton House, go to www.daytonhouse.org; or phone (507) 727-1311. Donations can be sent to Historic Dayton House, 1311 Fourth Ave., Worthington 56187.