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Community coming together to rebuild Deltaville Maritime Museum after fire on July 18
The Deltaville Maritime Museum building and its contents burned in a July 18 fire.
PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By Rob Hedelt
DELTAVILLE--Volunteer Bill Powell's reaction to the fire that recently destroyed the maritime museum that is a community hub here was typical of many dealing with the loss.
"That Wednesday night, watching the museum building go up in flames, I cried," said the business owner who serves as the events coordinator for the Deltaville Maritime Museum. "The next day, I joined others getting busy to get things up and running again."
Like so many who attend everything from a farmers market to concerts and exhibits at the museum complex on Holly Point in the Middlesex County town of Deltaville, Powell is now focusing on what comes next for the museum.
A donated trailer has already been set up as an office. And in discussions among museum officials, more than 800 members and an army of volunteers, the talk has been only of how to rebuild.
Raynell Smith, volunteer director of the museum, used a touch of levity to characterize the organization's unwavering commitment to the museum
"You have to remember, the unofficial motto of Deltaville is, 'We're all here because we're not all there,'" said Smith. "Something like this is not going to defeat us."
The museum was founded in 2002 to collect and preserve the history of the town once called the "boat-building capital of the Chesapeake."
Smith and other museum officials said the July 18 blaze, which was battled by fire companies from across the Middle Peninsula, destroyed things that can't be replaced. That list includes an entire maritime library, a recently completed lighthouse-style entrance, historic boat models, Civil War artifacts, eight Wright skiffs constructed in a family boat-building class and the W.A. Johns, a nearly century-old three-log-bottom sailing canoe housed under the pavilion.
The good news is that a rebuilt museum will probably be an improvement over the old one.
That's because the now-charred structure, which housed everything from an office to a library to exhibit spaces, was a former residence. Its small, house-sized rooms weren't all suited for museum displays and events.
"We'll certainly get to design what goes back in a way that will match the needs of a museum," said Smith, who would like to see plans include a large meeting hall.
For more information about the Deltaville Maritime Museum or to make a donation to help rebuild it, visit deltavillemuseum.com.