Hunter House museum reopens after 200-year-old oak tree falls on property

Posted at 2:31 PM, Aug 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-12 11:09:24-04

NORFOLK, Va. - During the height of tourist season in Hampton Roads, a unique museum was forced to shut its doors.

"We are the only tourable Victorian house in Norfolk, and we tell the story of a working-class family," said Hunter House Victorian Museum Director Jackie Spainhour. "We are a hidden gem showcasing something no one else is."

The Hunter House Victorian Museum was closed for at least the next week after a massive, two-century old oak snapped and fell onto the roof during Sunday's severe storms.

"The tree was struck by lightning, and it's leaning on the third floor where our collections are stored," Spainhour said.

The Freemason District home, built in 1894, has been home to only one family before being turned into a museum.

"Our collection spans from old board games to historical clothing to postcards, original letters - things that can't be purchased, so it would be devastating to lose anything," Spainhour explained.

The closure was terrible timing, says Spainhour.

"It is tourist season. We are a small non-profit. Every day we are closed, we are losing a lot of visibility and funding for archives and the facility," she explained.

On Monday the museum posted on Facebook saying they are reopened, "We are happy to announce that we are back to our regular hours this week! We will be open for tours Wed-Sat 10-3:30 p.m. and Sunday 12:30-3:30 p.m. Come check out our travel exhibit!"

Their insurance company has surveyed the damage and says it will only cover part of the cost to remove the limbs and uproot the tree.

"It's going to cost around $3,000-4,000, and we will need help from the community to raise funds," Spainhour said.

Spainhour says the tree was even mentioned in the will of Hunter family members, including Eloise Dexter,who was born in 1885.

"The trees were really important to her, so when we think about losing this, to some people it's just a tree but this is the story of her life. To see it go is devastating," said Spainhour.

After the tree is uprooted, it will be mulched and place in the garden.

The museum has created a GoFundMe page to help with costs. Click here if you'd like to donate.