ABILENE - The Lebold Mansion in Abilene has a new owner, a modern Renaissance man of sorts who has a number of ideas to bring the historic mansion and the public together once again.
"The lights are on again at the old Lebold Mansion. Screams will fill the night at Halloween and jingle bells will ring at Christmastime. Like the legendary Phoenix, the Lebold Mansion will rise once more," new owner Joseph Tatner noted in a news release.
Tatner became the owner of the nearly 150-year-old property on June 28.
The mansion’s long list of owners includes more than its share of colorful characters, and Tatner acknowledges that he is no exception. Tatner noted, however, that he may well be the most qualified person to take full advantage of this unique property, which bears a striking resemblance to the Addams Family home. Tatner explained that he has an affinity for the irrepressible Gomez Addams character, who is known as much for his love of life and charitable nature as for his offbeat sense of style. Although he has often been called “eccentric,” Tatner noted that he just likes to have fun. He also like to make people smile, and has earned wide recognition for doing so.
Tatner is a professional actor, producer, director, singer, dancer, marketeer, and writer. A former computer consultant, he currently writes business proposals from home to win government contracts for a cutting-edge technical company near Washington, D.C. He has also earned more than twenty certificates of appreciation or commendation from U.S. congressmen and senators, state governors, and city officials for producing events and ceremonies such as the Hansen Dam Fourth of July Spectacular (the largest fireworks display event in Los Angeles County), North Hollywood Theater and Arts Festival, and a fundraiser for St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. The last organization has special place in Tatner’s heart, since the hospital saved his life from a childhood illness.
As a published author, Tatner has written a wide range of books, from Autism: A New Hope (with Dr. Cheri L. Florance) and the Opus Americana (an epic tome on American history and symbology) to his award-winning comedy/action/romance trilogy, Floyd & Mikki: Zombie Hunters. As an actor, he has played roles on The Partridge Family, The Brady Bunch, Fame, commercials, and several movies. He’s been seen around the world as Nostradamus in a special produced by The History Channel. Tatner has produced, directed and hosted numerous events in New York cabarets, a Cultural Concert Summer Series in Los Angeles, and performed countless times in hospitals and rest homes simply to cheer people up.
If all that wasn’t enough, Tatner studied to be a priest in Rome and was an Air Force officer, he indicated in the news release.
According to Tatner, he plans to open the mansion for tours, generally remaining faithful to the historic nature of the property, but with fully modern technology. Tours will be booked online through the leboldmansion.com website he is currently creating. The site will have links to other local attractions throughout the area, such as the Seeley Mansion, Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad, Great Plains Theater, and Eisenhower Museum. Tatner said he plans to promote the town of Abilene itself, as well as the people and businesses who help to support the mansion.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Tatner admitted, “and it will all take time, but it all can be done. The mansion needs a lot of work, as well, so I’m starting a Go Fund Me page and will be asking donations for the tours and various events, but I won’t turn anyone away simply because they have no money. I’m not rich, and I was lucky to get this property for an amazing price, but I have the experience and determination to succeed in bringing the Lebold back to life.”
Indeed, there is a lot of work to do. The last owner sold everything in the mansion that wasn’t bolted down (and a lot that was), Tatner noted in the news release. The beautiful curtains and fine Victorian furniture are all gone. The wood needs treatment and restoration, and various repairs pose additional challenges, but the home is structurally sound.
No mansion is complete without a secret door, so Tatner is having one made. Details so far remain, well, secret, but it is no secret that Tatner plans to open his hospitality to the community.
Planned events include Saturday Teas, Sunday Sundaes, Addams Family themed dinners, Get-A-Clue murder mystery nights (a game created by Joseph himself specifically for the mansion), and, of course, guided tours, he noted. One downstairs room is being converted into a small theater and movie room with popcorn and hot dogs for events. Any actors or craftsmen who have a talent to offer are encouraged to contact Tatner directly.
“This town and this home have an amazing history. Not to mention more than a few ghost stories. I thank God I was able to get this place, and I’m going to have a lot of fun in it. I hope everyone else does, too,” Tatner said.
About the Lebold Mansion
This beautiful Victorian home was constructed on the original site of the home of Timothy and Elizabeth Hersey, founders of Abilene. Conrad H. Lebold had great success as an Abilene banker and land agent. He later became Mayor of Abilene, Treasurer for Dickinson County, and a member of the state legislature. The Lebold Mansion was built in 1880 for a cost of $18,000. At one time, it was said to be “the finest dwelling house west of Topeka.” After business failure, Lebold moved away from Abilene and the mansion saw a number of different owners and uses. In the late 1920s, the mansion became known as the Girls Club. The Girls Club was owned by C.L. Brown, and was a residence that offered female employees of the United Companies a place to live. The Lebold Mansion also saw life as an apartment building and a historic tour home.