Our future  
Patty Donald - president of the Victorian Preservation Center of Oakland

Dear Friends ,                                                                                                            Nov. 2021

As we head into the new year, I look back and realize how grateful we are to have this land and house to watch over.  Originally Ohlone land, we honor them . And, during this time, we are reaching out to our neighbors and appreciating all our family and friends (YOU) who have helped support the work that’s being done to help save this amazing old house for the future. Becoming a member means your yearly or monthly contributions will allow us to be able to count on having funding to make the necessary changes to last into the future. We will work hard with your help.
Our future means change.  We are reinventing our roles without a family member living in the house. The board has selected a talented couple to be our caretakers through a live work exchange. He is a professional carpenter. We are excited to watch the new energy and skills they will bring to the house and garden. In addition, we now have full access to the large shop, office and two classrooms located in the back of the property. This will provide us with the means toward a new sustainable future. We need your help and support even more to make that happen.

Our long-term goal is to become more sustainable by developing a learning, and training center, for people who want to learn the specific building trades associated with preservation and climate resiliency for existing buildings, which goes hand in hand with architectural preservation. We will use the back buildings to teach workshops and become a training resource for the neighborhood and any “Do it Yourselfers” who are trying to fix up their old homes. (All of us?) And because we are a 510 (c)3, we will qualify for grant money aimed at charitable work that helps low-income people learn trades. This will also help us be totally exempt from property taxes – we are now exempt for 78% of the property until we prove that the workshop space is going to be used as part of our 501(c)3 mission.

Day to day, we are improving the cataloging of thousands of historic items and attracting students and professionals interested in studying the decorative arts that we provide.  When able, we will continue to work with school classes in the house and garden. Our social media outreach & virtual tours continue to bring in more people from across the country that we are educating about our mission.

To do this, we always need your help physically and monetarily; become a docent and learn to lead tours, teach classes, help with our teas, cook sweets and savories. Plant, maintain and harvest our garden. If you do not have the time, your contributions are critical to our survival. We need to hire grant writers and find funding to upgrade the buildings in the back.

The Victorian Preservation board has gone through big changes. I am now President and Nancy Donald is Vice President. Julie Lee is Treasurer. Our new board member is Alice La Pierre- a housing energy and efficiency expert.

 We have also created an advisory board with professionals who will help direct us. Susan Mernit, CEO of the Crucible. Randolph Langenbach, a conservation tech consultant, and earthquake expert. Our Architect Kirk Peterson is drawing the current foundation for plans for the new foundation. 

We need a secretary and for our boards to grow, so, if you or anyone you know, has fundraising skills or workshop development skills, we would love to invite them (You) to join us. Please contact us!

It is very important to show you, our membership, and supporters, that we’re not sitting still during these challenging times. We have been able to educate and do outreach with our PowerPoint Presentations through Zoom that reach around the world to document our progress in the house. You need to be confident that your support and membership dollars are going directly toward helping the house in a much-needed visible way.


So, we spent our time during the last six months cleaning, prepping, and painting the kitchen and the caretaker’s room and bathroom. We had to replace the flooring in the kitchen, butler’s pantry, back hallway and Emelita’s bathroom.  These projects ended up costing us much more than we had budgeted. We've saved $3-4,000. by doing most of the labor ourselves.


We continue to be very cost effective with your donations. We have no paid staff, so 100% of your donations go to improving the building and managing our programs.  Our entire operating budget this year was only $25,000, due to COVID. We relied mainly on memberships, instead of tours and other events. And there are major upcoming projects which are key to the survival of this 138-year-old house, including exterior painting to preserve the siding and trim. Our costliest project is to add structural support, for which we have an architect, and need to hire an engineer for this design. This work will involve excavation, new foundation supports in the center of the basement, and a new perimeter foundation.  This will require obtaining permits, and a contractor to do this work.  It is not something we can rely on volunteers to do, and will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, which we don't have -- yet.  

You can help us succeed in this work, by sending a contribution to support these major efforts.  If you love history, and you want to keep this beautiful home for future generations to enjoy, please consider making a larger tax-deductible gift to the Victorian Preservation Center of Oakland and watch what amazing things we will do with it. Then come and see!


Please visit our website www.cohenbrayhouse.org to see photos of what we have accomplished so far. Look at our capital projects and see where our wish list items can be helped by your donation, and time.  You won’t be disappointed. Become a friend and follow us on Facebook, Like us on Instagram. #cohenbrayhouse. When you are planning for your Estate, consider Legacy Giving as a tax advantage.


 If you are not a member and would like to be taken off our mailing list for newsletters and such. Please help us by letting us know.


We truly appreciate your dedication and help.


Patty Donald 
Victorian Preservation Center of Oakland
Cohen Bray house