CASTALIAN SPRINGS, Tenn. – It was February 5th 2008 when the Wynnewood took a direct hit during the night.
"It looked like a war zone," said Site Director Rick Hendrix who waited until daylight to survey the damage. "I thought oh my gosh. It's gone. It's gone."
An EF3 tornado ripped the home's roof off, pushed it off its foundation and blew a lot of its contents onto the front yard. Today, after years of work, it's almost like it never happened.
The process is a lot more involved than just buying materials and rebuilding. To keep the site's ties to history and its landmark status contractors relied on photos of the destruction to figure how every board or log fits together, even the ones you can't see.
"We could zoom in and actually look and identify each individual ceiling joist," Hendrix said.
The plaster is even mixed to historical specifications. Old photographs are crucial to tell them exactly where things were before the tornado ripped them away.
"We would look for a check like this to match, find that piece and we knew exactly which location it went in," Hendrix said pointing to a crack running along one log. "If it was anything that could be salvaged we wanted to reuse it in its original intention in its original location."
For any original piece that wasn't salvageable, like in the old dining room, they found a way to reuse what they could. "These are the actual trees that were blown down during the tornado," Hendrix explained.
Visitors will be able to see a lot more than they did before the storm. Rooms, previously never opened to the public, are now part of the tour that gives you a more intimate idea of how the Wynne family lived, instead of making it a traditional museum.
"We're just trying to make it more of a… tell the family's story and make it look like, you know, they still live here," Hendrix went on to say.
When the Wynnewood reopens on July 4th Hendrix and others hope it'll be more popular, with strong roots to the area's past and special attention to a day in recent history that changed everything.
The historic site, once a stagecoach inn and later a mineral springs resort, will now have a new page in its history book. An entire room will be dedicated to an exhibit outlining how much destruction the tornado caused.
The Wynnewood is believed to be the first state-owned landmark to be destroyed by a natural disaster, and rebuilt with such historical precision.