Salubria at risk from Hurricane Irene; rescue work to begin today
Marc Wheat says it was “really shocking” yesterday to see photos of Tuesday’s earthquake damage to Salubria, a pre-Revolutionary house in Culpeper County.
Strong shaking by the quake fractured and twisted the tall chimneys above Salubria’s roof, putting the circa-1757 structure in danger if more bricks fall or the chimney tops–through which one can now see blue sky–collapse.
But Salubria’s steward, the Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies in Virginia, isn’t going to take chances, said Wheat, the foundation’s president.
Racing to beat the winds and rain coming north with Hurricane Irene, now a Category 3 storm, the Germanna Foundation and committed experts–many volunteering their time and effort–will work furiously over the next 48 hours to disassemble the unstable top of each chimney so that they don’t threaten to puncture the house’s roof.
The Orange County-based nonprofit is acting “on faith that they money for this will come,” Wheat said. “There’s no time to raise funds.
“We hope that people will realize that Salubria is important to the culture of the Piedmont and that they will be generous in making contributions earmarked for quake damage to Salubria.”
It is believed that Salubria was built by the Rev. John Thompson for his wife, Butler Brayne Spotswood. He was the rector of St. Mark’s Parish. She was the widow of the Colonial governor, who brought the first German settlers to the Virginia frontier, forged an iron-making industry and built one of the grandest homes in the land, which visitor William Byrd II waggishly dubbed the “Enchanted Castle.”
The home has some of the finest original interior paneling in the entire Mid-Atlantic region.
Just as Tuesday’s earthquake was the strongest to rock Virginia in more than a hundred years, Wheat said he hopes that the need for emergency repairs–and the fundraising appeal–will be once-in-a-century events.
“This is something we have to do,” he said. “We don’t want anything crashing through the home’s 18th-century roof and its support structure.”
Wheat vowed that the graceful chimneys will be restored, using as much of their original material as is possible.
“We’ll be very careful, we’ll save every brick and once we get the money, every brick will be going back up in place–for the next 250 years.”
Douglas Harnsberger, principal of Legacy Architecture Inc., was optimistic about the prospects for safeguarding the house and restoring the portions damaged by the quake.
Harnsberger, who has long experience with historic buildings in Virginia, had left his home in Swarthmore, Pa., before dawn on Wednesday to hurry to Salubria and begin sizing up the damage to its chimneys, walls and plaster.
“Out of this crisis, something good can happen,” he said on site. “We can manage this.”
Contributions can be made via the foundation’s website at germanna.org/donate_to_germanna or by calling 540-423-1700.
If you own a quake-damaged historic property, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources is eager to hear from you so that it can properly gauge the harm the quake did to structures across the commonwealth. The department’s staff can also offer advice on how to diagnose and treat such problems. More information is available here.
(As I was writing this blog post at 1:08 a.m Thursday, another earthquake aftershock was felt rumbling through The Free Lance-Star newsroom for a solid minute or two.)