The 100-year-old Cameron House, which hosted many receptions, parties and community gatherings during its 40 years as the home of the Art Center Waco, may soon welcome the public back as the new home of the MCC Foundation of McLennan Community College with a second floor reserved for the history of the community and a courtyard once again becoming a reception area.
The three-story house, originally built as a summer residence for the William Waldo Cameron family, closed in October 2017 after structural problems caused a floor to detach from its wall supports, rendering its dangerous occupation and forcing the art center to find a new location.
Under a plan unanimously approved by MCC trustees on Tuesday evening, the MCC-owned home would see repairs and renovations funded largely, if not entirely, by private donations, and eventual opening to the public a little later. one year after the start of the work.
Waco businessman and philanthropist Clifton Robinson has pledged $2.5 million for the project, the Cooper Foundation will provide a $200,000 grant, and other fundraising efforts are underway. The council selected Waco-based Mazanec Construction to tackle the project. Initial estimates put the cost of the work at $4 million, but that will likely be adjusted when Mazanec, acting as construction manager at risk, finalizes project details.
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MCC President Johnette McKown said she welcomed the proposal for the future of the house. Since the building’s closure, McKown said she hoped private donors would step in to save the house because the projected cost of repairs was too high for the college’s needs.
“We are excited about the possibility of renovation. Demolition has always been a possibility,” she said Tuesday morning ahead of the board meeting.
An earlier proposal discussed this spring involved space for an art gallery and exhibit, but when that component fell through, plans were reworked and Robinson stepped forward to fund part of the renovation, the executive director said. of the MCC Foundation, Kim Patterson.
Patterson said dozens of community residents have shared memories of events held in the home over the decades, particularly wedding receptions and parties held in a courtyard that was originally a swimming pool. Part of the intent of the renovation is to carry those memories into the future.
“This is our opportunity to maximize this gem and our goal is to restore it to its former glory,” Patterson said. “There were so many emotional ties to this place.”
While the renovated house will serve as the headquarters of the MCC Foundation, currently located in a small house across the college campus, its space, particularly its large courtyard, will be made available to local non-profit organizations. for-profit and other community groups, says Patterson. A catering kitchen area and toilets will be adjacent to the courtyard.
The second floor of the renovated home will also host exhibits and interactive displays telling stories about the natural and cultural history of the area, encompassing the greater community of Waco, the Cameron family and the MCC.
“There’s no other place the Waco story is told. It’s definitely in the wheelhouse at MCC,” Patterson said. “We want these spaces to be open to the community. We make sure to tell everyone’s story… (but) we don’t call it a museum of Waco history.”
Patterson said author Mark Firmin’s centennial story about Cameron Park, whose land was donated to the city of Waco by the Cameron family, gave a sense of the context in which Waco’s story could be set. referenced in the renovated house.
William Waldo Cameron, son of logging magnate William Cameron, built the Mediterranean-style home, complete with swimming pool and skeet shooting outbuildings in 1921, supposedly as a wedding present for his second wife, Helen Miller.
Robinson and his wife, Betsy, will actually host a home renovation fundraiser on June 21, the anniversary of the Camerons’ wedding.
The Camerons would later move to San Antonio after WW Cameron’s death, and the JD George family bought the property in the 1950s and lived there through the 1960s. The Junior League of Waco acquired the house in the 1970s and renovated it to house the new Waco Art Center, now called Art Center Waco. Forced out of the house in 2017, Art Center Waco has since moved to downtown Waco, where it spent $3 million to renovate an old daycare center as its new home.
Although the Cameron House is over a century old and connected to a great family in Waco history, it does not have a state historic marker and is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The problems that forced the building to close are not beyond repair, said Stephen Benson, MCC vice president for finance and administration.
“It’s a pretty serious structural problem, but it’s fixable,” Benson said.
He estimates that repairs and renovations will likely take 14 to 16 months.