Historians saddened by fire at Historic House in Flint

MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) - It's a historic landmark that has stood as a window into Flint's past for more than a century.

"This is probably the one house that really showcases what Flint was like in 1885," David White, Board member of the Whaley Historical House said.

As the roof on the Whaley Historic Museum burned Monday afternoon, those who adore it were devastated. For U of M Flint history major Justin Wetenhall, seeing the fire and smoke gushing out of the roof hurt him deeply.

"A friend of mine called me and told me the Whaley House was on fire, so I bolted to the second floor of the U Center, saw flames coming out of the roof and I started crying. It was horrible to see. Mr. Whaley signed one of the first checks to General Motors. This is a pretty big house for that reason. No Whaley's, no GM, no big Flint," Wetenhall said.

The Whaley Museum is Flint. Dating back to 1869, it stood tall on Kearsley Street. Robert Whaley purchased it sixteen years later in 1885.

"This really is the last, historic mansion we have," White said.

David White, a board member for the museum, began volunteering at The Whaley Historic House in 1975. He's been in love with its history and architecture ever since.

"Mr. Whaley was president of Citizens Bank, and he was the individual who gave Billy Durant the loan to buy the Carriage Company from Coldwater, Michigan. That started the Durant-Dort Carriage Company, which led to General Motors. That passbook was on the library table, and the firemen brought it it us. It has a little water damage but we saved it," White said.

The fire destroyed parts of the roof and the third floor. While the house is not a total loss, water fell from the top to the basement, leaving carpet rugs soaked and destroying furniture.

"We're already seeing damage to the wallpaper and the painted rooms, like the library that's very fancied stenciled," White said.

While it's devastating, David is amazed at the outpouring of love and support he's already receiving from different organizations.

"We had offers of help from museums across the state. And we're very happy about that," White said.

White says a restoration company is putting heat in the house to dry out the water.

Tuesday morning they will have conservation people in town to advise them on how to preserve some of the artifacts in the house.