David Rock saw the parting of the clouds over Swinney House as a sign of what is to come for the 128-year-old building that stands as a symbol of Drumm Farm.

David Rock saw the parting of the clouds over Swinney House as a sign of what is to come for the 128-year-old building that stands as a symbol of Drumm Farm.

“This building has been shrouded in a lot of dark clouds over the years,” said the president of the Drumm Farm Board of Trustees. “But I think things are starting to look bright.”

Tuesday marked a sort of kickoff for renovations of Swinney House, which was purchased by Major Andrew Drumm in 1912 along with 370 acres. It once served as a residential facility for boys who lived at the Andrew Drumm Institute and later as administrative offices in the 1970s but was closed in 1980 because of the cost to repair it.

The intention was always to bring the “building back to life,” said Rufus Little, executive director of the Andrew Drumm Institute. But, he said, there were always other priorities on the 250-acre campus that now includes the Drumm Farm Golf Club golf course as well as the institute, which services 24 full-time residents.

“I have been here for 18 years, and this building has been brought up in every board meeting in one way or another. It has been a challenge,” he said. “It has now reached a stage of deterioration, so we know that it is now or never.”

And with the help of the community, renovations to the exterior will begin in a matter of weeks. Just more than $205,000 has been donated for the first phase of the efforts. Another $25,000 has been received in the form of donated equipment and supplies, and still another $52,564 was given to the project for doors and windows through funds the city of Independence received from the federal economic stimulus package.

An additional $47,000 will be needed to complete the exterior restoration work.

“We are now at a point where we can move forward,” Little said. “This will allow us to save the building and buy us some time to raise the necessary money to attack the interior of the building.”

The first phase includes replacing the roof; repairing masonry; replacing doors and windows; restoring trims, shutters, soffits and guttering and environmental remediation. All three porches will also be restored, two of which have already been removed because of safety concerns.

The second portion of the project, the interior renovation, will cost an estimated $590,000. This includes carpentry, electrical, plumbing and fixtures, heating and air-conditioning, insulation, flooring, painting and further environmental remediation.

Bert Schwaller, contractor for the Swinney House project, said he is looking forward to the day when he can start to breath some life back into the structure. Active in renovations on the Independence Square, he said to have the chance to restore Swinney House is “exciting.”

“The biggest issue with this building is not structural, but environmental. The bones of this building are wonderful,” he said. “This is a huge opportunity to do something that will leave a lasting impression on this community.”

Little said that although the mission of the Drumm Institute is to help foster children build successful lives, and not to restore historical buildings, he said the restoration will help the mission of Drumm Farm in the long run.

Once completed, Swinney House will become a joint administrative center for the Drumm Institute and the Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association. The upper level would serve as apartments for recent graduates.

“We want this facility to be utilized, touching the lives of a maximum number of foster children,” Little said. “Our mission is to give children in foster care stability and with this renovation, we can help even more children.”

For those who are still interested in donating to the project, state tax credits are still available through the Youth Opportunity Program.

The tax credits work like this: A donor gives, say, $10,000 to the renovation efforts and receives $5,000 worth of Missouri tax credits to reduce his tax liability. In addition, the donor would still receive the normal state and federal charitable donation tax credit. That would mean that on a $10,000 donation, a donor would get back $8,400 in tax savings.

The $245,000 in tax credits, which will be available through April 2010, roughly translates into $500,000 for Swinney House, Little said.

“This is an opportunity to further our mission while also restoring a historic building,” he said. “I think this is something that strikes a cord in the community. There is a lot of sentimental attachment to this building.”

For more information on Swinney House or to make a donation, contact Rufus Little or Kate Schwaller, development director, at 816-373-3434.