April 24, 2019
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Water damage forces layoffs, temporary closure of historic Brunswick inn

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Severe cold weather has wreaked havoc on a historic inn and at the former residence of Maine Civil War hero Gen. Joshua L. Chamberlain.

Water damage caused by burst pipes forced the temporary closing of the Capt. Daniel Stone Inn, along with some layoffs. It also caused the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum to cancel a special one-day tour planned next month.

The historic Water Street inn, which came under new ownership last fall, closed its doors and laid off several employees on Jan. 9 after breaks in a sprinkler head and hot water pipe damaged the kitchen, a health room and several guest rooms, according to Director of Operations Jim Heineman.

“Basically, the second break not only caused water damage in the sleeping rooms, but also took out the kitchen ceiling,” he said on Monday.

More than half of the inn’s 24 rooms were damaged, Heineman said.

He said the Water Street inn isn’t expected to reopen until Feb. 17 while construction workers repair and renovate the damaged areas. As a result, 12 part-time employees have been temporarily laid off.

The severe cold weather combined with the inn’s aging structure are the likely culprits for the sprinkler head and water pipe breaks, Heineman said, adding that new systems and insulation will be added to prevent similar problems in the future.

He said insurance agents are still assessing the damage’s financial effect.

Despite the hardship, Heineman said, the damage hasn’t delayed Boston East India Hotel’s planned renovations to the inn. Instead, the incident has caused the Boston-based company to switch priorities.

The inn operator said his team was already planning to renovate the guest rooms, kitchen and health room.

But the work was originally supposed to happen after renovation of the inn’s oldest section, the federal house where the inn’s namesake lived in the 1800s.

Now, renovations are delayed for the federal house section, which will provide the inn with six previously unavailable suites when work is completed. A name change for the inn is also still in the works.

“We’ve just shifted priorities a little bit,” Heineman said. “We’re still on plan, and on time. It’s just a little different focus at this point.”

Chamberlain museum

Less than a mile away from the inn, operators of the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum were expected to meet on Thursday to discuss repair and maintenance of the historic Maine Street home that once belonged to Maine’s 32nd governor.

Jennifer Blanchard, executive director of the Pejepscot Historical Society, said severe cold weather was the culprit when frozen water and heating pipes burst and sent water flowing to the first floor in early January.

The water damaged one wall, two ceilings and some period furniture in the parlor and dining room. Other artifacts, including Chamberlain’s 1893 Medal of Honor, which was donated last year, were not damaged.

“Fortunately we had a conservator look at [the furniture],” Blanchard said, “and he thinks the underpinning upholstery will be OK.”

During a tour of the building Wednesday morning, Blanchard pointed out a rare sight: 19th century timber that was used to build the original portion of Chamberlain’s house, which was elevated using local shipyard equipment to make room for a new first floor in 1871.

Blanchard said Pejepscot is still working with contractors and insurance agents to assess the financial impact of the damage.

The museum is traditionally closed during the winter, but the damage was enough to cancel a one-day tour scheduled during next month’s 10th anniversary Longfellow Days, a monthlong event that celebrates the life and work of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who once stayed at Chamberlain’s house.

Amy Waterman, spokeswoman for Longfellow Days, said Pejepscot is still expected to participate in the event in some form to highlight Chamberlain’s relationship with Longfellow.

Blanchard said some supporters have already come forward to donate to the museum after hearing about the incident.

“Every gift makes a real difference,” she said, “as we strive to take the best care we can of Joshua Chamberlain’s home.”

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