City won’t demolish Maysonnave Cottage
What to do with the quasi-historic Masonnave Cottage?
That was the narrow but deep conundrum before the City Council Monday night, as it considered a range of options as diverse as burning the thing to the ground so fire fighters could practice extinguishing the flames, or investing $700,000 to restore it to residential status.
Burning it to the ground was quickly rejected when someone pointed out that getting a fire truck to the site might be problematic and could result in burning down the expensively restored Maysonnave House on the eastern end of the property.
And the $700,000 option greatly exceeded the availability of any city funds that could be invested in the property.
Other options were thought to be constrained by terms of Henri Maysonnave’s will when he deeded his home to the city under the condition that it be used as a memorial park or museum.
The home now houses a museum, leased and managed by the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation, but the cottage at the back end of the property is in serious decline and would have to be significantly improved before it could be inhabited.
One option explored by city staff was pursuit of an “equitable deviation,” a legal action that can grant permission to deviate from terms of a will, but there was little support on the council, or from the audience, for that option as well.
In the end, after numerous members of the public voiced their support for preserving the cottage, the council responded favorably to a suggestion from Patricia Cullinan, a member of the league board of directors, who recounted a visit to the Rudyard Kipling house in Vermont, now used as a historic vacation rental.
The Maysonnave Cottage, Cullinan suggested, could become such a historic vacation rental where visitors could intimately experience, and sleep in, part of Sonoma’s history.
Mayor Ken Brown said he foresaw problems with turning the home into a place where future bachelor parties might be held, but a majority of the council prevailed and voted 3-to-2 to explore plans to turn the cottage into a historic vacation rental or a B&B.