- Associated Press - Thursday, June 2, 2016

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - With the crumbling of its 125-year-old original slate roof causing unprecedented damage to its historic interior, Kokomo’s Seiberling Mansion is in desperate need of community support.

To help promote that need, the Howard County Historical Society last Thursday held the kickoff of its “Save Our Seiberling: The Next Hundred Years” centennial campaign, which aims to raise $1 million to replace the slate roof by next spring.

While preliminary figures show the roof replacement - the need for which was highlighted by a recent assessment funded by Indiana Landmarks and conducted by RATIO Architects - costing somewhere around $500,000, officials are also preparing for a slew of ancillary repair fees.

Those could include fixing damage underneath the roof, inside walls or along the structure’s metal trim.

To ensure the ongoing safety of the mansion, its distinct architecture and the community’s most unique relics, local officials are hoping to raise the funds through a collection of sources, including community donations and matching grants, similar to the $50,000 already pledged by the Community Foundation of Howard County.

“We knew we had a problem 40 years ago, but we began to seriously plan for (Thursday) in 2014,” said Howard County Historical Society Executive Director Dave Broman, who noted the extensive damage to the building’s infrastructure and valuable relics, most of which can be attributed to the roof, which had a 100-year expectancy.

In relation, the effects of the roof’s disrepair and the pressing need for community funds became readily apparent during all-access tours of the building Thursday.

Trickling, and in some cases flowing, water has damaged irreplaceable artifacts like an original Elwood Haynes sleigh and a decades-old 55-gallon iron lung used by a Kokomo woman suffering from polio, along with various paintings.

More pressing though, is the infrastructure damage stretching from the attic, where bird droppings once stood ankle-deep in spots, to the basement, where the mortar between the Indiana limestone foundation has turned to powder.

In addition, cracks in ridges, floorboards and window sills - all caused by water leakage from the deteriorating roof - have threatened portions of each floor in the mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

With people from 47 states and 14 countries visiting the mansion in the last year, the mansion’s local impact stretches far beyond its beauty or historical curiosities, making the repairs an imperative need, said Steve Daily, a campaign co-chair and former mayor of Kokomo.

“This mansion is so much more than just a part of our history,” he said. “This mansion is an attraction. It has a significant impact on economic development. . You can’t deny that impact on a community, to have some facility that has that kind of a draw.

“We have covered up and patched up for a lot of years. The inclination is there are so many really critical, important, immediate problems in our community that need addressed. . So there’s been some amount of humility here in not getting into the fray and asking for support from the community. But certainly, now is the time.”

Echoing many of Daily’s sentiments was Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman, who during his State of the County speech earlier this year remarked on the importance of maintaining the Seiberling Mansion.

While a contribution figure hasn’t yet been set, Wyman said the county will be significantly involved in funding the roof repairs.

“I look at this as it’s our opportunity now, it’s up to us to make sure for the next hundred years families in our community will get to enjoy this treasure as much as we have for years,” said Wyman. “From my standpoint, it becomes an obligation for us.

“Many, many people come to our community to visit this, and when they’re here, they’re shopping, they’re eating in our restaurants, they’re doing those sorts of things,” he added later.

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Source: Kokomo Tribune, http://bit.ly/283S2ZF

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, http://www.ktonline.com

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