Tryon Palace Recovers from Florence, Planning to Reopen Later This Week

Tryon PalaceLike most of New Bern and North Carolina, Tryon Palace is working hard to recover from the impacts of Hurricane Florence and plans to reopen the site to visitors later this week. An official reopening date will be announced when the safety of the site can be fully assured for visitors.

In the days immediately following the storm, staff returned to the site to assess the extent of the damage left in Florence’s wake. Having had the opportunity to safely investigate the historic homes, gardens, and the North Carolina History Center, staff have been able to identify the best way to help the site recover from the storm.

“I’m so grateful to the staff who prepared our building for the storm,” said Bill McCrea, Executive Director. “They were responsible for minimizing damage to our important artifact collection. The security staff who stayed through the storm were exceptional. We are working hard to reopen soon and be a gathering place for New Bernians who need a respite from their own cleanup work. As a centerpiece of downtown New Bern, our reopening will be another signal that New Bern is open for business.”

The Tryon Palace gardens were able to weather the storm with minimal damage. “Our bee hives and winter annuals in our nursery yard safely withstood the storm,” said Hadley Cheris, Gardens and Greenhouse Manager. “We lost quite a few trees across the site, but were fortunate that most of the gardens were left only with debris and not damage.” Gardens and Greenhouse staff have been back on site since early this week, clearing the grounds of debris and making plans for the autumn mum displays for which Tryon Palace is known. “Our gardens staff has been remarkable and already handled most of the large limbs that fell. We are continuing to cleanup leaf and limb debris throughout our historic side.” In the immediate future, the gardens staff will continue to assess how to best handle landscape issues left in the wake of the storm, and parts of the site will require outside contractor work to ensure their complete recovery and safety. Most of the historic gardens will be reopened this weekend, and while they may be open to the public and will be safe for visitors, they sustained a lot of damage from the hurricane, and may not be as picturesque as visitors expect. Tryon Palace asks that you have patience while staff regroups to return the gardens to their former beauty. The Gardens staff is looking for volunteers to help assist with hurricane recover, and anyone interested in volunteering can visit Hadley Cheris at hadley.cheris@ncdcr.gov.

The historic homes and buildings all saw small amounts of water damage caused by leaks from wind-driven rain. The Governor’s Palace sustained limited water damage contained to the walls. The historic homes sustained various minor damages like broken windows and torn-off shutters, which contributed to water intrusion. Staff are working hard to repair these damages and the secondary damages caused to collections items within the homes.

“Museum collections fared well in the storm,” said Alyson Rhodes-Murphy, Director of Collections. Prior to the storm, staff spent much time packing, moving, and covering collections across the Tryon Palace complex. Exterior and interior shutters on the historic buildings helped provide protection from the wind. “Only a few collection objects received any damage, which can be repaired in house by our staff conservator, Richard Baker. The one surprising incident was the damage to a crystal chandelier in the Stanly House that was caused by an acorn blown by the high winds through a broken window.”

The North Carolina History Center saw unprecedented flooding, with water from the Trent River reaching the doors. Opened in 2010, the North Carolina History Center stands on the Trent River on a site that had seen historic flooding. The History Center was built to be above historic flood levels. “The worst hurricane flooding for the city of New Bern was in 1913, 1933, and 1955 – all between 9 and 10 feet, respectively, according to hurricane historian Jay Barnes” said Lindy Cummings, Research Historian. “1955 was Ione and we do have the flood level marked at the History Center. The storm surge from Ione was 10 and a half feet above mean low water and set a record. The History Center has never seen flood levels like those brought by Florence.”

The 13.5-foot storm surge at NCHC caused damage to the exterior entryways to the building. Facilities and Maintenance staff have repaired the front entrance to the NCHC, and all other entrances remain closed until repairs can be completed. The boardwalk area outside NCHC has experienced damage that will need to be inspected and repaired before it is safe to access. Minor interior water damage has affected flooring in places and caused electrical damage in various spots throughout the site. A visitor favorite, the Pepsi Family Center experienced water intrusion, causing extensive electrical damage to the technologies and equipment in the gallery. The recovery of this gallery requires removing the floor and all of the technology from the exhibit. Once equipment is dried, it will be assessed for the extent of water damage. The exhibit will remain closed while staff determines the best course of action for recovery.

Please pay attention to TryonPalace.org or to our social media for more updates about exhibit and site openings, as well as upcoming and rescheduled events.

Submitted by: Regina A. Ochoa, Director of Public Affairs, Tryon Palace

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