On Saturday, I joined a crowd of volunteers to help landscape the Gibb Mansion. The event, held in celebration of Earth Day, was coordinated by a new volunteer group called Young Friends of PACC. Comprised of neighbors in their 20s and 30s, the group is dedicated to engaging younger community members around issues such as affordable housing and economic development. I've written about the mansion before, but PACC Executive Director Deb Howard provided some in-depth background before we started (and while we enjoyed pastries from Michael Allen Desserts - thanks, guys!).
The mansion was built in 1852 as a mansion for John Gibb, a lace manufacturer. Over the years, it served as a fancy hotel, an orphanage and later as a short stay hotel before falling into serious blight. In 1998, the building was sold at a bankruptcy auction and purchased by a welfare hotel. The block association was unhappy with the thought of a welfare hotel on their street, and PACC negotiated a purchase. Soon after, the building's facade collapsed.
The renovation was completed in 2003.
Today, the mansion houses low-income individuals, people with chronic diseases, and the formerly homeless. Each resident lives in a small studio apartment, and the building is equipped with a library and a gym. The mansion staff includes social workers, an art therapist and even an acupuncturist.
Our task was landscaping the front and side of the building, as well as building a raised bed to be used a vegetable garden for the mansion's residents.