The John Wells Pratt House, one of Fulton’s most revered historic sites and the home of countless archived local relics, is recovering from extensive water damage after a pipe recently burst inside.
Leaders of Friends of History in Fulton, which runs the museum, say they believe the pipe bust sometime Saturday, Nov. 22, and the flooding was discovered the following Monday.
According to Pratt House Director Sue Lane, a valve in the building’s water heater that governs how much water to send throughout the system malfunctioned, over-pressurizing the pipes and radiators on the upper floors to the point that some burst.
“We basically had a swimming pool on half of the second floor,” she said.
But it could have been a lot worse, Lane is quick to point out. The flooding was discovered Monday by the museum’s cleaning lady, who had actually come in a day early to do her work.
“It’s like these things happen for a reason. The lady who does our cleaning wasn’t scheduled to come in, but came in anyway, and she was the one who caught it,” Lane said. “She saw the ceilings and the walls running with water, so she called me right away. When I got there I started calling everybody and their brother to come get started with mops, buckets, shop vacs or whatever we could use.”
After volunteers got the situation under control, professionals were brought in to begin the cleaning and recovery process.
The flooding has left several rooms in need of serious restoration. Walls, ceilings and floors throughout the museum, including those in the exhibit rooms, will need to be completely removed, cleaned inside, and replaced. In such an old historic building, Lane is certain it will be a complicated process that requires special workmanship and attention to detail.
“It’s hard because, we don’t want to change anything, but we have so much that needs to be replaced now. We have ceilings that need to be redone, walls that need to be stripped down and put back up, all the wood floors upstairs are going to have to be pulled up and replaced because they’re completely ruined,” Lane said, “so we’re going to need find a special carpenter who’s worked with old houses and knows how these things need to be done.”
Among the hundreds of items damaged are relics from Fulton’s old factories, antiquated newspaper clippings, photographs and volumes of historic documents, to name only some. The water also damaged an entire room full of historic clothing items, which FOH is working with a Syracuse-based dry cleaner to have restored.
However, in a seemingly miraculous stroke of good luck, none of the flooding reached the rooms that currently house the 18 decorated Christmas trees on display for the organization’s annual Parade of Trees. Lane said this year’s event, which will continue to run in spite of the damages, marks the most trees the museum has ever had on display.
“The one bright note is that the water didn’t touch any of the trees for the Parade of Trees, and we were able to do enough cleaning that it won’t interfere with that,” Lane said. “It was kind of like Mrs. Pratt put her hand out and said ‘you can ruin this side of the house, but not this side.'”
Despite the mess, FOH leaders are still counting their blessings that there wasn’t more damage.
“I keep saying, while it’s certainly bad, it could have been a lot worse,” Lane said.
The Parade of Trees continues until Friday. Lane said she plans to wait until it’s finished to begin holding fundraisers or other events to help with the restoration.
“With all that’s happened, we’re trying to make the Parade of Trees a priority. The organizations that do the trees have done such a wonderful job, and this is the most we’ve ever had. So even though all this is going on, we certainly don’t want to take away from all of their hard work. We’re going to be positively focused on the Parade of Trees for now, then get focused on the house.”
The museum can be found on S. First Street in Fulton, and has been on the National Register of Historic Places for 15 years.