Gadsby’s Tavern suffers major water damage

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By Susan Hale Thomas (Photo/Susan Hale Thomas)

The historic Gadsby’s Tavern Museum suffered major water damage due to a ruptured sprinkler joint in the third floor attic dormer last week.

Frigid temperatures in the region last week caused water pipes to freeze and burst across the city.

Museum Director Gretchen Bulova said she was thankful staff were present at the time of the accident, because it allowed for a quick response from employees and the city’s department of general services.

“The damage would have been much worse had this happened after 6 p.m.,” she said.

The restaurant in the 1792 portion of the building was undamaged and remains open for business.

A gift shop worker said she heard a high-pitched whistle coming from the upstairs portion of the museum followed by the sudden sound of gushing water.

Water flowed from the sleeping chambers on the third floor of the 1785 structure, through the floorboards and ceiling into the second floor assembly room and the first floor dining rooms below.

On Friday, an abundance of buckets were used to stem the tide of water, along with industrial wet/dry vacuums and dehumidifiers.

“We’re not letting tours through because we’ve created micro-environments with the dehumidifiers that will allow the historical plaster ceilings to dry,” Bulova said. “Keeping the doors shut and people out helps control the atmosphere.”

The museum brought in a preservationist, who lifted the some of the floorboards to allow for better air circulation.

Jeremy McPike, director of the city’s department of general services, said the sprinkler system was approximately 40 years old. Upon inspecting the system, another crack was discovered in the second floor sprinkler system, which workers repaired. The city is assessing the system and officials have already determined it will need additional repairs in the future. He estimated renovation and cleanup to cost between $80,000 and $100,000.

Gadsby’s Tavern Museum will be closed to tours for several weeks. Scheduled museum activities will be relocated to nearby locations or cancelled.

The Civil War Ball on January 24 has been cancelled as well as all other activities associated with the ball. But Tavern Toddlers, the January 25 Presidential Salon and the February 8 Winter Warmer Ladies Tea will go on as scheduled.

Bulova said Gadsby’s still plans to go forward with the Birthnight Banquet and Ball scheduled for February 14.

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