The Wildwood Historical Society (WHS) would like to use the historic Hencken House, located at 18750 Manchester Road, as the new home of a local artists’ guild or art gallery.
At the April 4 Wildwood Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) meeting, a public hearing was held regarding additional uses of the home, which could include an art gallery, professional office, or other compatible ancillary business. .
The old farmhouse, which dates back to the 1850s, has been privately rented since the historical society purchased it and its 5-acre plot in 1999. Income from the rental of the house helps pay the mortgage on the property, said Lynn Lien, a volunteer and director of the nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.
“Like most charities with all volunteer staff relying on private donations and fundraising to stay financially solvent, the changes of recent years have had a negative effect on us,” Link said. “It made us even more dependent on revenue from Hencken House to pay our bills.”
The Historical Society currently has a meeting hall to accommodate speakers and events, a museum with an extensive library and information on local families and general history, and the Hencken House.
Link believes non-residential and lighter use would reduce wear and tear on the historic building.
“We also hope that leasing to another commercial organization might generate more interest and membership in the Wildwood Historical Society,” she said.
The Historical Society already has a potential tenant. Bert VanderMark, a local artist and art teacher, has expressed interest in providing affordable workspaces for local artists and private home-based art lessons.
VanderMark said several artists and teachers have contacted him to express their interest.
“Over time, with contacts and friendships, we will develop a very strong foundation and interaction with a network of K-12 schools for students, families and teachers,” VanderMark told the commission.
Laura Southman, a former art teacher from Rockwood, said she was excited to help get the art center off the ground because it could offer a flexible curriculum, a better learning environment, and possibly community activities. group such as after-school or summer programs.
“We’re looking for a fun way for students to develop their art in a fun environment by connecting with other students,” Southman said.
The house actually began as a gathering place for local residents in the 1800s, when it housed the Hencken General Store and the Hollow Post Office, and was used as a meeting hall.
A resident had concerns about traffic in the area and the use of the gravel road to access the site. Link responded that the signage would direct visitors to the Historical Society driveway and not the gravel driveway.
This isn’t the first time VanderMark has sought a space in Wildwood where cultural events and art exhibits could take place. He had previously explored the idea of hosting at the Miller Haus, but that establishment closed due to the pandemic.
“The Hencken House will become an innovative learning environment, investing in our community and (providing) something very unique to Wildwood,” VanderMark predicted.
The committee did not respond to the request but will vote at a later date.