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McNamara House Museum for sale


Nov. 12, 2010 at 5:12 a.m.

The McNamara House, which has served as a historical museum since 1959, is for sale by the Victoria Regional Museum Association so the organization can focus strictly on the visual arts. The house was built in 1876.

After spending four decades as a historical museum, the McNamara House is for sale.

The Victoria Regional Museum Association's board of directors voted to sell the property at their September meeting in order to concentrate the organization's resources more fully on the visual arts, board president Tracy Cliburn said. As a result of that vote, the property was recently put on the market.

"We want to focus more on the arts. The Nave Museum is the only fine arts museum in the area and so we want to focus our efforts in that direction," she said.

Cliburn added that the Nave Museum typically attracts more visitors through the year due to the changing exhibits. In May, more than 1,000 people visited the Art Car Show. In October, more than 800 people attended the Day of the Dead exhibit and the other exhibits average around 300 visitors, according to a news release.

All the proceeds from the sale of the property will go to expanding the programs at the Nave Museum and acquiring new office space.

"As a board, we do our best to think with our heads and not our hearts," Cliburn said. "Therefore, the decision to sell the McNamara House was approached realistically based on the needs of the community and Victoria Regional Museum Association, so the decision was not difficult."

Built in 1876, the McNamara House, 502 N. Liberty St., was the home of businessman William J. McNamara, his wife and their four daughters. Built in a style known as Greek Revival with Victorian accents, the house and its grounds have been slightly modified, but not totally altered since its construction, according to the Victoria Regional Museum website.

In 1959, the house was turned into a historic house museum and received its Texas Historical Building Medallion in 1961, Gary Dunnam of Victoria Preservation Inc. said. The property is also documented in the National Historic Registry.

"There are very few limitations as to what owners can and can't do to a building on the registry but the building's status as a landmark will not be affected by the sale," he said. "When owners change, the listings on the registry don't change."

The house was put up for sale with the blessings of the descendants of William McNamara, his great-great-granddaughter, Morgan O'Connor said.

"The board told us about the situation and even graciously offered to let the family buy the house back, which we declined. At our ages, we don't need a historic home. But they handled the situation very well," she said. "Our family completely supports and understands their decision."

O'Connor added that there is a sense of sadness and the selling of the house is bittersweet, especially since it was her mother, Marie O'Connor Sorenson, and her uncle and aunt, who gave the house to the museum association originally.

"I went to that house as a little girl. I've gone there my whole life," O'Connor, who also used to serve on the museum board, said. "That place was very important and sentimental to my mom, and so it's very sentimental to me. I have so many fond memories of the place. But I'm optimistic, as is the Victoria Regional Museum Association, that someone will come along that wants to preserve the house."

The McNamara House collection of paper artifacts have been donated to the Local History Center at the VC/UHV Library and the Victoria County Historical Archives and will be available to the public for research. The board plans to inventory the other artifacts in the home soon and will then consider what to do next with those items, Cliburn said.



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