Glen Ellyn History Center cleaning up after burst pipe leaves major water damage
Glen Ellyn calls itself the "village of volunteers" -- a heartwarming motto, to be sure.
But Dan Anderson can tell you exactly why it's more than a catchy slogan.
He's an expert on Glen Ellyn history, an author of a series of books on the subject. He's written extensively about the village's earliest days and the seedier characters who populate his collection of "Tales of Murder, Mayhem, Infidelity, Pranks and Other Intriguing Tidbits."
Anderson also has devoted chapters to Glen Ellyn's volunteer spirit. And on Monday, he embodied the village motto as one of the volunteers helping the Glen Ellyn History Center recover from major water damage caused by a burst pipe.
"We're a community of volunteers. We take pride in that," Anderson said. "It shouldn't be surprising that people show up and dedicate their time and muscles and whatever to make a situation like this better."
A four-inch pipe from a fire suppression system burst some time in the early morning hours Friday, flooding the basement and first floor of the building at the corner of Main and Elm streets. With only flashlights and headlamps guiding them -- the building was left without power -- Anderson, Glenbard High School District 87 students and other history buffs started the delicate task of carefully moving fragile, "irreplaceable" artifacts and documents to temporary storage.
"It was pretty sobering to see it, disheartening," Anderson said. "It's a wonderful building that we've put so much effort into and money into."
The nonprofit Glen Ellyn Historical Society operates the center and the historic Stacy's Tavern Museum, left unscathed, about a block to the north. In the immediate aftermath, the center's staff members and supporters have been focused on clearing out the collections to make room for cleanup and construction crews to do their work. After that, the center will assess the extent of the damage to its archives.
"It doesn't appear that the majority of our valuable artifacts were impacted by this, but some were," Anderson said.
The water gushing into the center set off a security system alarm that notified police. The village's volunteer fire department also responded and immediately began pumping out water. About 3 inches of water and mud spread throughout the first floor, including a gift shop.
"The entire building was flooded with water and mud, and the basement collected over 6 feet of water and is a total loss," Director Karen Hall said.
The center has lost some artifacts but saved most of its collections, she said. Over the years, the society has amassed a vast array of items: photos, documents, farming tools, artwork, even a Superman costume donated by Jonathan Charbonneau, a 26-year fixture in the village's Fourth of July parade.
"We're fortunate that we didn't have anything historic in the basement," she said Monday. "So we're in the process of relocating all of the three-dminensional artifacts and documents to safe, dry locations where they can be secure while work is done to rehabilitate the building."
The center will remain closed for at least the next two weeks, Hall said. She said the historical society expects insurance to cover most of the costs of the flooding damage, but it's also set up a donation page on its website to allow donors to contribute.
The center's phones are down, but volunteers who want to help still can leave messages at (630) 469-1867.
"We've had a wonderful outpouring of support from the community for which we're very grateful," Hall said.
It's too early to say what caused the pipe to burst, but Hall said there's speculation that severe winter temperatures were the culprit.
She's also trying to find a new location for a center presentation, "Emmett Till: The Spark of the Modern Civil Rights Movement," originally scheduled for Saturday.
As one of the most "striking" examples of the community's generosity, one member showed up to the history center with a $1,000 check to donate to the cleanup, said Anderson, who will again report to duty Tuesday.
"When something like this happens of course you're going to answer the bell, and I'm not the only one doing this," he said.