Locals protest at board meeting; historic mansion safe for now

Published 12:11 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Oxford officials wanted to seek local and private legislation to examine their options regarding the Cedar Oaks Mansion, but the deadline was quickly approaching.

The item was quickly added to the board’s regular meeting last Tuesday.

When the agenda for the Feb. 20 meeting was made public, members of the Cedar Oaks Guild –  a group of women whose primary mission is to preserve, support and promote Cedar Oaks – rallied on social media and email chains against the resolution from their membership and other community members. 

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City Hall was standing room only that night, with about 50 people showing up against the resolution.

When it was time for the board to vote, it was a tie – three for seeking the legislation and three against. The Mayor broke the tie and voted in favor. She said the resolution did not necessarily mean the city was going to sell the historical building. It just gave the city the power to look at the city’s future options. 

“The Board of Aldermen has not declared the Cedar Oaks building surplus, nor have they authorized the sale,” she said. “As the resolution explains, there is not a pending or definitive date for selling the property.”

Tannehill apologized to the audience and the Guild members for not reaching out to them prior to the item being put onto the agenda.

The folks at the meeting to defend Cedar Oaks walked out of the meeting after a resounding “boo.” 

However, by 8 a.m. the next day, everything had changed. 

The City Clerk received an email early Wednesday morning from Shane Barnett, chairman of the House Local and Private Committee, announcing that the committee would only be considering resolutions for local and private legislation that had passed from the local entities with a unanimous vote. 

“I look forward to community discussions regarding how Cedar Oaks can be more sustainable, in the best interests of all the citizens of Oxford,” Tannehill said after announcing the city would no longer be seeking the Local and Private legislation during this session.

Built in 1859 by master builder and self-trained architect William Turner as his 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. 

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 (now all rolled into the Cedar Oaks 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.

“Cedar Oaks is a rare, historical site in the middle of Oxford,” Dibrell said. “It is a place of community, history and education. The transfer of ownership was made in good faith that the house and property would be used and maintained in a collaborative way as an educational tool between the city and the Guild.”