Flooding leaves chairs hanging from chandeliers at Swift Creek Mill Theatre

Posted at 11:17 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 23:51:38-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The Swift Creek Mill Theatre in Chesterfield County is facing one of its biggest challenges 55 years after the venue first opened following "devastating" flooding over the weekend.

"We have no idea the scope of the damage yet," Swift Creek Mill Theatre Managing Director Steve Koehler said. "We as a theatre have been flooded before, but never this bad."

The flood waters filled the basement and then made their way into the first floor. After the water receded, a rain-soaked, mud- coated mess was left behind.

"This water went up 15 feet in 12 hours," Swift Creek Mill Theatre Artistic Director Tom Width said.

That much water in such a short time flooded the basement of the historic theatre from "floor to ceiling," Width said.

The flooding was so turbulent Width said he was surprised by what was left behind.

"You see over there, there's a chair hanging from a chandelier," Width pointed. "There's another chair behind that pillar hanging from a chandelier."

Then more than a foot of water made its way on the first floor.

"We spent the last two days, clearing the mud and water out of our dining room, in the hopes of saving this wood floor," Koehler said.

The flooding is the latest challenge for the venue, which has been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We put plans in place to already come back from the pandemic," Koehler said.

That meant moving furniture in the main dining room to make room for social distancing.

"We moved at least half the tables and chairs from this floor down," Koehler said. "So all in all, probably I'd say, 150 chairs down in the basement and 45 to 50 tables [were lost]."

While the stage and seating were spared, the large shipping containers used to store props and supplies behind the facility, not only flooded, they nearly floated away.

That means the props and supplies may be ruined.

The restaurant's kitchen was also damaged.

"We will not come back at all without donations," Swift Creek Mill Theatre's Director of Development Jennifer Procise said. "This will ultimately, probably delay us opening again in 2021. How long that will take, we don't know yet."

Financial support will be key to making repairs.

"$100,000 might even be too little," Procise said.

But the non-profit has seen some support over the past few days, according to Koehler.

"The outpouring of support we've seen from the community, makes me firmly believe we'll be back, better than ever".

And while this building has been on this spot since 1663, there are no plans to let the floor nor the pandemic shutter it.

There are two ways to help. Click here to make a donation via the theatre's website. A GoFundMe campaign has also been created for the theatre. More than $18,000 had be raised as of Wednesday night.

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