Notre Dame Cathedral fire evokes memories of 2015 Whaley House fire in Flint

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FLINT (WJRT) (4/16/2019) - "It was sickening. I mean it just brought back all the memories of the fire here and how helpless you feel," explained David White, President of the Whaley Historical House Association.

Watching France's Notre Dame Cathedral burn has been difficult for him; because, he knows they now have a long road ahead of them.

In November 2015, they dealt with a similar devastating fire at the Whaley Historic House Museum.

"And, the Flint Fire Department, just as you saw in Paris, they removed items from the house," White explained. "We have the original loan book from Citizens Bank to Billy Durant for him to buy the road car company and bring it to Flint in 1885." That eventually led to General Motors.

The home is filled with countless pieces of Flint's history, dating back to the late 1800s.

White said only about a dozen artifacts were lost in the flames.

A little more than three years later, the restoration is finally about 99-percent complete.

"It probably should've happened faster," White said. "There was a lot of delay, a lot of delay from the insurance company - what they would pay, what they wouldn't pay, and contractors, you know."

For now, they're still waiting on a few of the furniture pieces to be returned and to restore much of the word work still suffering from water damage.

"The total cost of the renovation, which includes removing all the artifacts and taking care of them for the time period, was $2.3 million," he said. "We're still lacking $50,000 to bring us back into the black. And so, we're working very hard towards that."

Insurance money, grants and donations covered the rest.

He's grateful the community stepped up in more ways than one, an effort he's also seeing in Paris.

"Certainly people were taking a risk to go into the Cathedral to remove the historical documents and that. So, we have to be very thankful for those people," White said.

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