After more than $450,000 in repairs, Butler Longhorn Museum reopened Jan. 5 after being flooded during Hurricane Harvey.
“We like to say that we sent Hurricane Harvey to the back pasture,” Annette Conwell, president of the museum’s board, said.
More than 15 months ago, Clear Creek overflowed its banks during Hurricane Harvey and flooded the Butler Longhorn Museum and its grounds that were once the home of Walter Hall at 1220 Coryell St. Walter Hall was a prominent banker and was known for his contributions to League City. The storm dropped more than 50 inches of rain on some parts of Galveston County, overwhelming drainage systems and leaving many residents with flooded homes.
The city had bought the property after Hall died in 2000.
The museum’s education building sustained the brunt of the flooding, taking in more than 4 feet of water, while about 3 inches of water got into the main building, city officials said.
City officials have spent more than $56,900 from a Harvey-dedicated fund to repair the museum, while insurance proceeds have contributed another $394,000 for additional repairs, said Sarah Greer Osborne, spokeswoman for the city.
Those repairs included contractors replacing the walls and shelving touched by the rising waters, said Monica Hughes, executive director the museum.
That is more than the $50,000 to $100,000 city officials initially estimated repairs would cost.
But, while repairs to the museum itself are now complete, the more damaged education building is still inoperable, Hughes said.
The elevator in the museum might have saved the museum from more damage. Crews pumped out 21 55-gallon drums of water from the elevator shaft, Hughes said.
Hughes used the opportunity created by the repairs to rearrange some of the museum’s artifacts, which were largely saved during the storm because she moved most of them to the second and third floors, she said.
With the help of volunteers, museum officials redecorated the building in 10 days after contractors finished repairs, Hughes said.
Some of the areas needed new artwork, much of which was pulled out of storage, because murals portraying the history of Texas painted on the drywall soaked up those 3 inches of floodwater.
Replacing those murals could cost as much as $40,000, Conwell said.
While the city and insurance proceeds footed the bill for infrastructure repairs, the museum board has to pay for any extras, such as the murals — money the museum doesn’t have, officials said.
The museum, filled with exhibits explaining the Butler longhorn cattle bloodlines, began as a city project that opened in 2009.
Critics said the city museum was racking up runaway costs. The city, no longer willing to subsidize the project, asked the museum board to foot the bills. In 2009, the city phased out the financial responsibilities to the museum board. The city’s annual budget to operate the museum was $230,000 a year with three full-time employees.
Ticket sales alone aren’t generating enough money for the museum, which began booking events to increase revenues. That led to outside weddings and other events with live music that bothered neighbors who complained to the police.
The museum board was paying $100 a month to lease the city building, but after the museum could no longer hold outdoor events, it had no revenue to pay utility and other basic costs.
Museum officials had to tell couples they couldn’t have their weddings there as planned while the building was being repaired, Hughes said.
The museum now already has many tours booked for January, and one of the women postponed her wedding so that it could be at the Butler Longhorn Museum, Hughes said.