Historic Robert S. Kerr Mansion Up For Auction

POTEAU (KFSM)- The historic, Robert S. Kerr Mansion in Poteau is now up for a sealed auction by the state, leaving supporters and residents upset.

The Kerr Mansion has been closed to the public for several years now, but was once a museum and the center of many events.

Behind the old Black Angus gates on Robert S. Kerr Drive sits the home of the former Oklahoma governor and senator, now with an auction sign out front.

"When I drove up, I saw the auction sign had been put up in front of the old gate and it just brought tears to my eyes," Nina Ritchie, officer of Friends of the Kerr Mansion said.

The property was put up for auction by the state after the group, Friends of the Kerr Mansion was unable to gain the title needed to pursue grants and donations to keep the home going as an event center and museum.

Kerr died in 1963 from a heart attack and the group acquired the home when it was donated by the Kerr family to the Oklahoma State Board of Regents for Higher Education in 1978. The facility was used as a retreat and was developed into a hotel and conference center under the operation of Carl Albert State College (CASC). When operational cost caused the Regents and CASC to close the center and declare it surplus, Friends of the Kerr Mansion continued with efforts to operate and improve the facility.

Kerr Mansion closed to the public in 2013 for lack of funding needed for repairs and upkeep.

"It`s a historic place of significant value to the county, but there`s not enough interest anymore to viably keep it open," Keith Young, Poteau resident said. "I hate to see it go."

Robert S. Kerr formed a petroleum company and is known for his work on the Arkansas River Navigation System.

At his home in Poteau, he hosted five United States Presidents, which include John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

"[President Kennedy] found that he really, really needed Senator Kerr in order to pass some legislation," Ritchie said. "So, in order to get that legislation passed, he had to come to Poteau, Oklahoma."

With the rich history, Ritchie, with tears in her eyes said it's a shame to see the mansion go.

"It`s just tragic that the state of Oklahoma is not going to support a historic site of that caliber," Ritchie said. "Instead they`re going to auction it for a very small amount."

According to a statement given to 5NEWS, the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services, "is now preparing to return the property to private ownership through a sealed bid auction that will take place in late July or early August."

"It`s just sad to see it go," Young said. "I don`t think the younger generation cares one way or the other."

"The last thing we want is for it to be bulldozed off the cliff," Ritchie said. "If it can`t be a museum to the legacy of Robert S. Kerr, we hope the new owners will love it, restore it and take care of it."

The property is expected to be auctioned off in the coming months.

No word yet on how much the property is expected to be worth.

For more information on the sale of the Kerr Mansion and property, contact the State of Oklahoma Real Estate & Leasing Services at (405) 521-3819.