FLINT — Whaley Historic House Museum had not been open for Christmas for years after a tragic fire. On Nov. 30, 2015, contractors on the roof were using a welding torch to weld together copper gutters being added to the house. Where the copper gutters joined, the torch is thought to have caused sparks under the shingles and to have started a slow smoking fire on the dry wood that supported the roof, destroying half the house’s roof.
“To put out the fire, the Flint Fire Department had to use about a half a million gallons of water,” said Daniel Conner, executive director of the Whaley Historic House Museum.
“If you can imagine half a million gallons of water pouring through the roof, it soaked all three floors,” Conner added.
There was also smoke damage.
Conner said the house museum being open this holiday is very exciting because Nov. 30, 2015 they had just finished setting up for Christmas and the fire occurred before they could show anyone the house.
“After nearly two and a half years of restoration work, it’s a miracle we were able to come back after such a tragic incident,” he said.
Self-guided tours are being offered at the house Saturdays from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. throughout December for $5 per adult and $3 per child. The house has been decorated by local florists Vogt’s Florist in downtown Flint and Gerych’s of Fenton.
Conner also credits volunteers, The Flint Area Arbor Chapter of Gleaner Life, The Flint Antique Club and The Flint Yard and Garden Club for making this possible.
“We have about 300 feet of garland throughout the house, three Christmas trees and a lot of Victorian Christmas decorations throughout,” he said.
Children can build their own Santa, do other crafts, as well as write letters to Santa while at the museum.
Santa Claus visited the house Dec. 15 and will stop by for another visit on Dec. 23.
“It’s going to be a Victorian Santa,” Conner said. “That means he has a red robe rather than a red jacket. He’s going to have a wispy-looking beard and a stocking cap rather than a regular Santa’s cap. I think it’s important to see this type of Santa because the fact we have a Santa Claus or St. Nicholas points back to the Victorian era. The song ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ was done in 1923. ‘The Christmas Carol’ book by Charles Dickens was done in 1843.”
Children and adult visitors as well will be able to learn about Flint’s history at the house museum and ask questions to volunteers.
“Through the house, you learn about the Whaley family and what we believe was there importance to the area and about our automotive and carriage heritage in the Flint industrialist past,” Conner said. “Mr. Whaley was head of Citizen’s Bank. What Mr. Whaley and Mrs. Whaley gave still reflects in the present.”