Aldermen seeking information on options for Cedar Oaks

Published 2:55 pm Monday, February 19, 2024

An item on the upcoming Oxford Board of Aldermen’s meeting agenda has caused a flurry of email chains and social media posts among people upset that city officials might be considering selling the historic Cedar Oaks Mansion.

The agenda item stated “Consider a Resolution of the Mayor and the Board of Aldermen in support of local and private legislation allowing the sale of property held in public trust.”

Built in 1859 by master builder and self-trained architect William Turner as his personal residence, the home was moved from North Lamar Boulevard to its present location in east Oxford off Sisk Avenue in the late summer of 1963.

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It was owned and managed by Oxford Lafayette Historic Homes, the umbrella organization for three women’s clubs — Centennial Study Club, Cosmopolitan Study Club and the Readers Guild — for more than 50 years. In 2010, the house was deeded to the city of Oxford and is now managed by the Historic Sites Commission of Oxford.

The city of Oxford believes there is case law authority that requires special legislation to allow the sale of property that has been dedicated and accepted in the public trust, and the city is requesting local and private legislation authorizing the ability for the city to sell the property.

However, in one of the many email chains, Mayor Robyn Tannehill said the agenda item is not about whether or not to sell Cedar Oaks or any part of the property, at least not now.

“The vote on Tuesday will not be a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ regarding selling Cedar Oaks,” Tannehill said in the email. “The Board of Aldermen have not declared the building surplus nor has the Board of Aldermen authorized the sale … Simply, the resolution asks for legislation to be in place in the event the Board of Aldermen decides to sell or distribute the property.  A ‘yes’ vote would approve the resolution to pursue the local and private legislation necessary to determine what our options are in regards to Cedar Oaks, the surrounding lots and the land encumbered by the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks …

“The Board will explore numerous paths forward if the Local and Private is passed that will include community input. This is the first step and would lead to informed discussions regarding ways to make Cedar Oaks more sustainable.”

The mayor also posted her full response on Facebook. 

Lillian Susan Walker Smith Sahag, the daughter of Walker Hassell and Jane Smith who donated Cedar Oaks to the city of Oxford, was born in Cedar Oaks. She said the city should not ever consider selling the home.

“We gave this home at a time when Oxford had hit a low point,” Sahag said. “It was used to start the Oxford Pilgrimage and stand tall in presenting Oxford as the beautiful community that it has always been.

“In every way throughout history this home has stood tall in its service to the city and Oxford, from the afternoons when bands stood on the widows-walk and played for the enjoyment of Saturday shoppers well over 100 years ago, to my grandfather standing on the balcony and preaching the ‘good news’ long into the night in loving support of all Oxonians.”

The Board of Aldermen meeting takes place at 5 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall.