Richmond's most infamous mansion is in new hands again … 

Street Talk

New Owners Call Cary Street Mansion Home Cantor Campaign Going to The Birds? New Arts Alliance Backs Downtown Complex Gay Pride Festival Seeks Big Names Boxing Native Scores Upset
New Owners Call Cary Street Mansion Home

Psst. There's somebody new in Graymont.

If you're like most Richmonders, you know the place even if you don't know the name. But did you know the once-vacant and neglected mansion that has been on the market for more than a year has found new owners?

All the secrecy is — at least in this part of town — understandable.

Graymont, the former Gottwald-Mercer mansion at 4811 Cary Street Road, has made the local news so much, even if you're one of a handful who has never driven by its stone wall and 6-acre stretch of greens, it's likely you've seen the alabaster estate in the news.

It's had a rough six years.

Since 1994, the 20s-era manor has bounced back from a nasty legal battle, recovered from a ruinous beating from nature, survived its lonely days and held its ground against possible rumors that, one day, it could be divided into a mini-gated community.

But perhaps its days of strife and pining for long-term occupants are over.

According to the city assessor's office, a property transfer for 4811 Cary Street Road was made on April 12 to new owners David and Lucy Trebour. But even Graymont failed to snag its full asking price of $3.25 million. The Trebours forked over $2.6 million for the refurbished mansion. The assessed property value is $1.4 million; the value of the home and improvements is $1.6 million. Some could say the Trebours got a good deal.

But for the Trebours, it's not about money; it's about what they perceive as a real value: their solitude. "We're very private people," politely says David Trebour, declining further comment.
— Brandon Walters

Cantor Campaign Going to The Birds?

Move over, Bucky. Meet Petey the Peacock.

People at the Parham Road office building where he's taken up residence sure have.

They include some pretty prominent folks, too, from Del. Eric Cantor of Henrico to Richmond Magazine Publisher Rich Malkman. But they're not quite sure what to make of the mostly peaceful but occasionally peevish peafowl.

"He just walks around making the rounds of the office building," Cantor says. "He squawks and sort of defends his territory."

Petey's daily forays from an apparent lair in nearby trees have been witnessed at the Parham Trade Center since last month, when he apparently caught a case of spring fever and decided to let the world know about it.

The county's animal control division says Petey has been hanging out in the area since his owner reported he had escaped last year. "There's nothing we can do because you can't get within 10 feet of it," Henrico County Animal Protection Officer J.T. Hancock says.

Petey seems to detect people with penal aims, and he's not so pea-brained as to miss a free meal. "He's right below my window every day," Malkman says. "He does that I think to get fed."

Cantor spokesman Jason Kello says the office has been feeding Petey bread, birdseed and water. "It's definitely more interesting than what's going on in here," he says.

But there's more than a political price to pay for Petey's periodic p.m. visits, Cantor says. While Petey is "not a real menace … certainly there is the droppings situation."

Food, though, doesn't seem to be the peacock's only preoccupation. "He looks lonely," Kello says. "He's sending out the call."

"He's definitely got something else on his mind," says Richmond Magazine assistant editor Harry Kollatz, who describes Petey's peculiar peeps as sounding "almost like a parrot. Not like a duck."

And certainly not like the GOP's elephant or Democrats' donkey. While Cantor staffers say they'd welcome Petey as their mascot, "I think he's apolitical," Kollatz says. "He's looking for a handout, but he's very proud. It's hard to tell" Petey's party preference.

Cantor is running against Sen. Stephen Martin of Chesterfield for the June 13 Republican nomination for the state's 7th District seat in Congress

"My guess is that the peacock could vote, he'd support Steve Martin's across-the-board tax cut rather than a series of targeted tax cuts," says Martin spokesman Mike Salster. "Peacocks are not only pretty, they're smart. Steve Martin's tough on crime, too. He would not give aid and comfort to an escapee."

Maybe not, but Cantor also will be among six Virginians to be honored for their pro-pet activities June 7 at the Governor's Mansion by the animal welfare group Save Our Shelters.
— Rob Morano

New Arts Alliance Backs Downtown Complex

If you build it, will they come? That's what the new Alliance for the Performing Arts is trying to find out about a performing arts complex first proposed for the downtown area during the Metropolitan Area Project Planning Strategy (MAPPS) process two years ago. And the recently formed nonprofit group is hoping the answer is a resounding "yes."

The Alliance, made up of local performing-arts groups including Richmond Ballet, the Richmond Symphony, Virginia Opera, Elegba Folklore Society, Theatre IV and the Jazz Actors Theater Co., among others, is determined not to let all of the hard work that went into MAPPS go to waste. Many of these same groups sat on a committee that came up with a regional plan for the performing arts in 1998 which primarily includes a downtown performing-arts complex made up of an expanded Carpenter Center, a relocated TheatreVirginia and the possible addition of another large performance facility nearby.

Philip Davidson, chairman of the Alliance and a Richmond Ballet board member, says with the recent acquisition of the former Thalhimers building by the Carpenter Center, one of the initial and most important linchpins of the project has already been put in place.

With MAPPS put on hold during the round of recent General Assembly and boards of supervisors elections, the members of the Alliance have decided to pursue the creation of a performing arts complex themselves. "The time is so right with the expansion of the convention center and the availability of the Thalhimers building," says Heyn Kjerulf, vice chairman of the Alliance. "This is the moment."

The Alliance is currently in negotiations with a Connecticut-based consulting firm to do a market feasibility study of the MAPPS plan this summer. The Alliance hopes the study validates its vision for the performing arts by showing that people will fill the seats in the new arts complex. This will allow the Alliance to begin raising funds for the downtown project, which could cost as much as $100 million. The group is currently in the process of setting up a separate foundation, which would handle the fund-raising for the project. Once the project is completed, the Alliance will look at implementing other regional performing arts facilities proposed under MAPPS and will continue to serve as a cooperative forum for performing arts groups.

"This seems to be one of those special times when all of the stars and forces are aligned," Davidson says. "The needs of the performing arts organizations are very much aligned with the needs of the community. … I'm really quite optimistic that we'll see some major results over the next two to three years."
— Jessica Ronky Haddad

Gay Pride Festival Seeks Big Names

After rain and low attendance put a damper on festivities last year, the organizers of Richmond's annual gay pride festival are seeking everyone from a celebrated cross-dresser to a U.S. congressman to make this year's event a success.

In a letter to members, the Richmond Pride Coalition says it is negotiating the appearances of RuPaul and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., for Pride 2000. The event is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 16.

Comedienne Margaret Cho and pop songstress Taylor Dayne also are being sought, according to the letter. Richmond Pride Coalition representatives could not be reached for comment by press time.

The city will close Grace Street from Foushee to Fourth streets for the noon-to-7 p.m. event. "It'll probably be like a big block party or street party," says Todd Boyd, co-owner of Cafine's, a club at 401 E. Grace St. "This will be the first year that I believe it will be produced to that level."
— R.M.

Boxing Native Scores Upset

Professional boxing continues to lose credibility by the day, but don't blame heavyweight Sedreck Fields.

The unranked and unheralded Richmond native last month scored a large upset victory over 11th-ranked Shannon Briggs in New York. Last week, Fields learned he will get a rematch June 29 to prove it wasn't a fluke.

Good news for Fields, 27, who grew up in Henrico and Chesterfield counties. But the news came amid a week of reports that continued to lower boxing's respectability near and far: Virginia's boxing regulator was fired after he admitted taking bribes, and federal lawmakers accused the World Boxing Council of judge-rigging.

The WBC, one of the sport's three international sanctioning bodies, backed the Fields-Briggs bout, which has not been questioned.

Fields' sister, Dionne, a Chesterfield resident, serves as his publicist and the director of a recently established namesake foundation. She says her brother's April 27 victory earned him a little more than $50,000, but the rematch purse will be "much, much larger." It also validated her brother's quest and "proved that dreams really can come true," she says.

The still-unranked heavyweight turned professional in 1995 after years on the amateur circuit. His pro record improved to 10-9 with the 10-round decision over Briggs. New rankings have not been published since the fight, but Dionne Fields speculates her brother's performance could land him in the top 10.

Fields, who lives in Georgia and was training last week in Texas, could not be reached for comment.
— R.M.

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