Florida couple start fundraiser to secure, restore historic home here

Published 10:06 pm Friday, January 22, 2021

NATCHEZ — Arlington, an early 1800s federal-style, suburban villa, is now a house with broken windows and walls of graffiti hidden behind weeds.

However, a Jacksonville, Florida couple who are historic house enthusiasts, want to buy and restore it to its former glory.

Thomas Fickert and his partner Matthew Stevens recently launched a Kickstarter fundraiser for Arlington with all funds raised going directly into the house’s restoration, Fickert said.

Kickstarter is a fundraising platform that allows communities to support creative projects.

Fickert and Stevens came across Arlington approximately three years ago in search of a beautiful federal-style house with old bones to call home, Fickert said.

They found Arlington while exploring countless homes from Virginia down to Louisiana and their hearts kept drawing them back to the same spot.

What some would see as a haunted house falling apart at the seams, they see a beautiful house that is well worth saving.

“My partner and I have fallen in love with the property but it’s a shame to see it in the shape that it’s in,” he said. “Our goal is to preserve it, bring it back to its former glory and use it as our residence.”

Fickert said he engaged in some tedious research and conversations with Natchez’s Historical Society to compose a historical biography of the house for the fundraiser’s page.

The fundraiser’s $500,000 goal is the tip of the iceberg, Fickert said, adding it could take millions of dollars to fully restore the house after years of abandonment.

He said none of the Kickstarter-raised funds would be used to purchase the property.

“If we are able to raise all of the funds, we plan to have the house fully restored by November of 2022,” he said.

The house has been in the same family for the past 80 years, Fickert said, adding the most recent owner, Dr. Thomas Vaughn, has been absent since inheriting the property.

Fickert said he has talked with Vaughn, who told him he would sell the Arlington property for “the right price.”

In September 2002, a fire destroyed the roof and portions of the second floor. The Historic Natchez Foundation and National Park Service alongside dozens of private citizens worked to salvage the antique furnishings and books — which have joined the collections of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and NPS.

The Historic Natchez Foundation replaced the roof and the house remains abandoned by its owner.

Fickert and Stevens began their Kickstarter fundraising campaign on Thursday. It expires on March 27 and gifts of appreciation will be provided to donors based on the size of their contribution.

Fickert said the gifts vary in size from postcards, customized T-shirts and Christmas ornaments to other forms of acknowledgment on the property, such as dedicated bricks that will be used in the sidewalk leading up to the house, plaques and Japanese cherry blossom trees and magnolia trees planted all around the property in the donors’ honor.

“Arlington will always be there,” he said. “We want to help preserve the town’s historic roots. We know the city is known for its historical value. We also know that without the community’s support, the project won’t succeed.”

Supporters can pledge their donation by searching for “Historical preservation of Arlington” at kickstarter.com.