BY JENNIFFER WARDELL
Clipper Staff Writer
CENTERVILLE — Whitaker Museum needs the public’s help to become whole again.
Museum board members are asking residents to be on the lookout for half of the gate on the iron fence surrounding the property. The gate, which dates back to 1920s like the rest of the fence, went missing sometime after the fence was damaged in last year’s storm.
“It’s almost as old as the building,” said Whitaker Museum Board member Nancy Smith. “Maybe teenagers took it as a prank and didn’t know of its value.”
Joseph Whitaker, a local judge and the son of original builder Thomas Whitaker, put up the fence and did considerable remodeling to the home. It was imported from the East Coast.
“It’s really one of a kind,” said Smith.
The gate opened up on what was once a dirt driveway, leading to a carriage room also constructed by Whitaker. The museum board has spent the last few years restoring the home to the state it was in when Joseph Whitaker owned the building.
“It’s not really built to be a museum, with cases filled with artifacts,” said Paul Thomas Smith, another member of the museum board. “It’s really more suited to historic interpretation.”
However, two 100-year-old trees fell on the fence during the December 2011 windstorm that hit the county. The heavily damaged fence was taken down, repaired, sandblasted and powder-coated in order to extend its life.
It was during the re-installation process that workers noticed that half of the gate is missing. A report was registered with the Centerville Police, but board members are also asking residents to come forward with any information.
Nancy Smith said that board members hope that whoever took the gate meant no harm by it, and didn’t know how difficult it would be to replace. The gate would have to be specially replicated to match the half still in place, and wouldn’t match the same era as the rest of the fence.
“We extend a sincere plea to the community to help us locate the gate or return it,” she said. “It has so much meaning to this historic home.”
Anyone who has information about the gate should call Centerville Police Officer Brad King at 801-677-6082 or Nancy Smith at 801-597-0391.