New foundation needed for Sibley’s Store

by Peter J. Teagle - Posted on Jan 09, 2019 - 12:34 PM

Photo: Mathews County Visitor and Information Center executive director Emily Allen stands in front of the old Sibley’s General Store. A fundraising campaign has begun for a new foundation for the historic Mathews Main Street structure.

Mathews County Visitor and Information Center executive director Emily Allen stands in front of the old Sibley’s General Store. A fundraising campaign has begun for a new foundation for the historic Mathews Main Street structure.

The Mathews County Visitor and Information Center has announced a new fundraising goal of $20,000 for 2019 as it became public knowledge that the historic Victorian-style Sibley’s General Store building is in need of a new foundation.

The historic store building, which is located on Main Street near its intersection with Church Street in Mathews Court House, serves as the headquarters for MCVIC, welcoming visitors to the county.

In a letter to contributors from 2018, Executive Director Emily Allen thanked residents for helping MCVIC raise $10,000 last year for the operational fund as well as to announce a donation match for 2019 from a pair of anonymous donors.

The unnamed benefactors offered to match up to the first $5,000 of donations. The $20,000 funding goal is slated to be used to pay a civil engineering firm to do a “complete evaluation, structural design, and plan for a new foundation.”

Additionally, Allen explained that the engineers’ findings will “determine our greatest areas of need, cost, a timetable,” that will inform the search for a capital campaign manager. While an exact cost is not known, Allen assumes the figure for the necessary repairs will be $250,000-$300,000.

“What’s been really promising, though, is there’s been a lot of action,” the director said. In the days following the sending of the aforementioned letter, 50-60 contributors stepped forward to make donations. “It helped us get to a point where we feel comfortable hiring the engineers to do their initial work,” she said.

Allen is also keenly aware of the public resistance to recent construction projects in downtown Mathews and stressed that the only thing changing about the historic building is the foundation.

“Sibley’s is a historically registered building and we’re not going to change Sibley’s itself,” she explained. “We just want to make it last many more years … we have a commitment to being good tenants of the general store.”

Allen pointed to the success of the recent YMCA construction as proof projects of this cost can be accomplished.

“I feel confident in our ability because of our strong network,” she added, “and in hiring a capital campaign manager who will do it properly … we will be looking local first since someone who is familiar with this area is the best option.”

Because of the historic status of Sibley’s, tax credits and grants may become available as the project progresses, something the executive director made clear MCVIC would pursue.

For the future of the building to be secured the foundation work will need to be accomplished in the next 3-4 years, as after that time Allen estimates “we will start to see the effects of a degrading foundation.”