The sounds of faint scraping could heard from below as workers chipped away at the mortar on the two chimneys capping the Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum.
“I’m just so happy to see the work that has now started, and so grateful to be able to have the work done. It’s such a relief,” said Spencer’s granddaughter, Shaun Spencer-Hester.
It’s the first week of roof work, a major repair for the home of Harlem Renaissance writer Anne Spencer.
After an appeal to the community, money has been raised to perform all three of the house’s costly maintenance needs: roof work, the installation of insulation throughout the house and electrical work.
The roof is rusting, the majority of the house lacks insulation — resulting in extravagant heating bills — and antique knob-and-tube wiring still is contained in some walls.
The cost to address the three concerns was estimated at about $58,000.
“Realistically, I never thought it would happen so quickly. But it did, and it’s wonderful,” Spencer-Hester said.
Help came from a variety of sources.
The museum received grants from the Greater Lynchburg Community Trust and the Andrew H. & Anne O. Easley Trust. Donations were received from businesses such as Bank of the James and the Forest-based Moore & Giles, as well as from private individuals.
Nelligan Insulation Inc. significantly discounted its services, advisory board member Jane White said in an email.
“Everything is greatly appreciated,” White said.
Spencer-Hester said it was heartwarming to receive phone calls or emails suggesting possible fundraising efforts or with simple declarations of “What can we do to help?”
Roof work will include getting the roof watertight and applying a rust inhibitor, repainting the chimneys, and the repairing and replacement of some the gutter systems.
The house’s antique knob-and-tube wiring also will be addressed, followed by the installation of insulation from the museum’s attic to the basement.
Spencer-Hester spoke of changes in how the museum raises money in the future, such as the decision to introduce an annual giving campaign.
A newsletter, a primary means of raising support, will continue to go out. Spencer-Hester said there were times when the museum couldn’t afford to print and mail the newsletter.
The museum also plans to reach outside of Lynchburg to people and entities who might not have heard about the Anne Spencer Museum, “but who might be interested in knowing our story.”
“It kind of goes back to if you don’t ask and don’t let them know who you are, they’ll never know who you are,” she said.
Major repairs no longer may be a concern, but the century-old home is in need of ever-present upkeep. The museum also lacks a grant writer, which Spencer-Hester said is needed desperately.
Spencer-Hester said she would like to see the museum “stand on its two feet” and be preserved and ready for the 21st century.
“I thought there may have been people in the community who thought that we were OK because we never asked. But when the ‘ask’ was made, they realized that we needed help, too. And some people say, ‘You never know until you ask, so I think it also, the [request], also raised awareness to the community that we are just like all the other nonprofits here in the city. We need your support.”