Damage at Houston House estimated at more than $80,000

The floors of the Houston House are buckling and black mold has been found in some places.
Flooding earlier this month caused at least $80,000 in damages to the historic building at the corner of Water and Front streets.
While the building is covered by flood insurance, Houston House board members worry the insurance won’t be enough.
Zelma Smith and Linda Hance along with their husbands went to the Houston House the morning of Aug. 7 to see the damage.
Heavy rains caused flash floods earlier that morning and the evacuation of about 15 residences in Newburg, mostly along First Street.
Smith said floodwaters had reached up 5 inches in some places at the Houston House and there was an least an inch of mud, too.
“We couldn’t even find sandbags,” Smith recalled.
Hance’s son had gone down to the building before Hance and her husband arrived. “He (Hance’s son) looked at the front door and all he saw was mud.”
Hance and Smith along with their husbands vacuumed, mopped and cleaned the floors as best as they could
“As soon as you’d scrub, more mud would come back,” Smith said.
“People don’t realize it did this much damage,” Smith said. “I’ve lived here since 1956 and it’s never flooded inside here. It’s been under (the building) before, and we had to move some pipes and our furnace.”
Smith said the typical soup bowl lunches held Thursdays can average anywhere from 90 to 125 people in attendance. The lunches were available for a small donation, if people could afford it.
However, since Aug. 7, the establishment has been closed and not been able to offer the weekly soup bowl lunches.
The Houston House also won’t be open for the buffet breakfast normally held on the first Saturday of each month until further notice.
Until all of the repairs can be made at the Houston House, Linda Marshall, of the Houston House, said an alternate place to hold the soup bowl lunches.
“This is the only hot meal for some people here,” Smith said.
On Friday morning, a disaster relief team from Cross Church of northwest Arkansas was volunteering to remove the floor and wall panels, where mold was growing.
A group of churchmen from Doolittle also has helped with the floors, Smith said.
Marshall said there is still a need for workers, including carpenters and painters, to help make repairs. Monetary donations also are needed. Marshall can be reached at 573-201-1393.
No timeline has been set to reopen the Houston House at this time.
“There’s so much history here,” Smith said.
Construction of the Houston House, one of the first buildings in Newburg, began in 1883 and it opened in 1884. Railroad workers as well as school teachers lived in the place initially, Hance said.
The interior walls of the building have several old pictures from what the building looked like in years past.
The Houston House has been used for receptions, family reunions, funeral receptions and Newburg Day among other activities.