Francis Land House to unexpectedly re-open to the public as it gears up for renovations

The Francis Land House in Virginia Beach will remain opened on selected days until its renovations begin (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of the City of Virginia Beach)
The Francis Land House in Virginia Beach will remain opened on selected days until its renovations begin (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of the City of Virginia Beach)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The Francis Land House, which was slated to remain closed for renovations after a routine month-long closure in January, will re-open to the public over the next four months, said Matt Klepeisz, spokesman for the city-owned historic house.

Klepeisz said the 214-year-old plantation home off Virginia Beach Boulevard will re-open to the public on Friday. The house will be opened through May on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We had intended to remain closed after January for the renovations,” Klepeisz said.

However, after speaking with construction and renovation crews, Klepeisz said “a clearer timeline” emerged that allows the house to remain open longer as the crews prepare to start working.

The renovation start date was always fluid, Klepeisz said, although the city originally aimed to start working in March instead of July. The city has not yet sent the project out to bid, and administrative documents and processes took longer than expected, causing the delay. 

Once the house closes to the public in May, staff will clear out the office equipment and historical collections before renovations begin in July.

“We want to keep the house open for as long as possible, so we do not have a firm date in May” when the house will close for renovations, Klepeisz said, adding the construction timelines are still being finalized. 

Related story: Virginia Beach historic house to close, undergo renovations

Klepeisz said the city estimates the renovations — referred to by city officials as “vitally needed repairs and refurbishment” — will take about six months to complete, according to a Dec. 29, 2018 news release. The makeover estimated to cost the city $950,000.

The city’s Department of Aquariums and History Museums and its foundation want to reopen the house with a new “changing exhibit.”

The new exhibit will alter the character of the house from its current early 19th Century motif to a mid-1940s World War II farmhouse.

With the house’s re-opening Friday comes “Free Fun Saturday,” historic house programming that highlights a different historical theme each month. February’s theme will honor African-American history and offer special tours of the Francis Land house from the perspective of an enslaved domestic servant. Visitors can also explore African-American art through hands-on activities.

For more information on the house’s free programming on Saturday, visit the Virginia Beach History Museums’ website.

Follow Joshua on Twitter @WeinsteinReport or email him at Joshua@localvoicemedia.com

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