LITTLETON - A historic New Hampshire inn is closed until further notice, after suffering significant damage when a sprinkler pipe fitting burst earlier this month, sending enough water cascading down to cause a restaurant ceiling to collapse onto a bar four stories below.
Managers at Thayers Inn and Bailwicks Fine Restaurant are reviewing estimates for the repairs needed before the hotel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, can re-open.
"We've been open since 1843, and we'll be open again after this," said Thayers Inn General Manager Harry Almeida.
Almeida said the damage to the inn and restaurant, located at 111 Main St., was worse than the water damage stemming from a fire in March 2012.
"We're all shut down right now, because there is a lot of cleanup and rewiring of electrical panels and rewiring of rooms," said Almeida. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done. Right now we're working on cleaning things up, and then after the estimates for repairs are reviewed they'll start the repairs."
The pipe fitting burst occurred in the attic of the inn at 4:35 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 10, after water froze in a cast iron pipe fitting that connected three pipes, said Almeida. The burst pushed the air out and sent water rushing in, said Almeida, who was ending his shift that day and was at Home Depot when he was notified of the emergency.
Almeida said a high-pressure stream of water shot out from the pipe out for three to five minutes through several rooms and into Bailiwicks before the water could be shut off.
"It looked like a fire hydrant spraying water inside," said Almeida. "It dumped a lot of water down. I was at a store, and got called back to shut down the water."
No injuries were reported, but about eight guests had to be sent to narby hotels. Five of the 39 guest rooms sustained significant water damage.
A small gathering of people in Bailiwicks were also evacuated. Damage to the restaurant included the ceiling collapse over the bar, and more than half a foot of standing water inside the dining area.
As of Friday, there was no cost estimate of damage, and Almeida said bookings for guests attending two upcoming area weddings have been cancelled.
"We've managed to secure them rooms at other hotels," said Almeida. "They all have places to stay."
Thayers Inn, a Littleton landmark, has hosted famous guests that include Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Richard Nixon, along with celebrities such as P.T. Barnum, Tom Thumb and Bette Davis, according to its website.
The inn is owned by Thomas Carpi and Steven DiPietro, of Lynn, Mass.
Bailiwicks owner Stacey Northrup of Littleton said Saturday she had to lay off a total of 37 workers from her two restaurants because she transferred more senior workers from Bailiwicks to her other restaurant, Bailiwicks on Mill, in St Johnsbury, Vt.
"This was way worse than even after the fire. Everything had to be thrown away. We filled six large, round trash bins with food and other items that had to be destroyed; they couldn't be used."
Appliances, including several refrigerators stocked with alcoholic beverages, were ruined at the eight-year-old business.
If there was any good news, it was that disaster struck between lunch and dinner, and there was only one table of guests.
"We were getting ready for Friday night dinner. The alarm went off, but we didn't think it was going to be an issue. There had been a problem with a sprinkler head earlier that day, but it wasn't an issue. We thought we'd just wait outside until the fire department came and reset the alarm," Northrup said.
"Now, everything's uncertain. I have no idea when we'll be able to reopen. I'm guessing the inn will reopen before we do."
Will the hotel and restaurant bounce back and resume business, Northrup was asked. "We have to," she replied.