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After Florence: Parts of New Bern’s Tryon Palace could reopen as soon as this weekend

September 25, 2018

Credit: Chelsea Payne, Marketing Specialist, Tryon Palace

Parts of Tryon Palace, a popular spot for road trips and field trips from the Triangle and across the state, are expected to reopen this weekend, about two weeks after Hurricane Florence hit the region hard.

The historic site sits in downtown New Bern, which was battered by Florence’s high winds and flooding. Initial damage assessments from Florence, according to the city, total $100 million for both residential and commercial properties.

Considered one of the state’s most significant historic sites, Tryon Palace is home to the Governor’s Palace, the state’s first colonial and first state capitol, and includes historic buildings, gardens and the North Carolina History Center. There also are galleries, a performance hall, a museum store and a waterfront cafe.

Regina Ochoa, Tryon Palace’s director of public affairs, wrote in an email that the site’s officials will make a decision Wednesday about exactly when it will begin to reopen. The historic side of the destination, including the grounds, Governor’s Palace, kitchen office and Stanly house, could reopen first. The history center saw a bit more damage and could take longer to fully open to the public. Officials are still assessing the damage at the Pepsi Family Center.

“We’re still waiting for the electrical equipment to dry completely to see what we need to do to get it fully operational,” Ochoa wrote in the email. Tryon Palace will update its website and social media pages with updates on openings and schedules, she said.

“I’m so grateful to the staff who prepared our building for the storm,” said Bill McCrea, Tryon’s executive director, in a news release. “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.”

Here’s a look at the clean up at Tryon Palace so far ...

All things considering, the gardens fared pretty well during the storm, though they likely won’t be as picturesque as visitors expect.

“Our bee hives and winter annuals in our nursery yard safely withstood the storm,” said Hadley Cheris, gardens and greenhouse manager, in a news release. “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.”

Starting early this week, staff started clearing debris and gearing up for the site’s popular autumn mum displays. At the same time, they’re assessing other landscaping issues that likely will require help from an outside contractor. The Gardens staff is looking for volunteers to help with hurricane recovery. Anyone interested in volunteering can email Hadley Cheris at hadley.cheris@ncdcr.gov.

According to the news release, 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 homes have some broken windows and torn-off shutters, which contributed to water intrusion.

But, thanks to museum staff, who packed, moved and covered collections across the complex, only a few collection objects received damage. And it all can be repaired by Tryon’s staff conservator.

“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,” said Alyson Rhodes-Murphy, director of collections, in the news release.

This history center was the hardest hit and experienced “unprecedented flooding,” according to the release, with water from the Trent River reaching its doors. Opened in 2010, it was built above historic flood levels, the release said.

The 13.5-foot storm surge at the center caused damage to the exterior entryways to the building. Work has begun to make repairs, though it could take some time for the facility to be completely repaired.

The Pepsi Family Center, a family favorite with lots of hands-on activities and big touchscreens, also experienced water intrusion, causing extensive electrical damage to the technologies and equipment in the gallery, the release said. To make repairs in the family center, crews must remove all of the flooring and technology from the exhibit. Once everything is dry, they’ll be able to better assess the extent of the damage and determine how long repairs will take.

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