A year ago, a dream and 30 years of collecting went up in flames for Mike and Marsha Eland.
Their century-old Magnolia Inn, a historic home that has been operated as a bed and breakfast since 2006, was all but destroyed by a Feb. 3 electrical fire.
"I was woken up by the fire alarm at around 4 in the morning," Mike Eland said. "We had two guests and we wanted to make sure they got out - but as we did the fire spread quickly."
The blaze destroyed the roof of the 5,000-square-foot inn and the entire second floor. Damage from the water used to put out the fire resulted in a total loss of the first floor - as well as all the furniture the Elands spent 30 years acquiring.
The physical damage was vast - an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 - but the emotional damage lingers.
"It was our home first and an inn second," Eland said. "We wouldn't wish what we went through on anybody."
But in the days following the destruction of the inn, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Homes, Southern hospitality helped ease the Elands' pain in perhaps their darkest hour.
"We had several members of the community stop over to check on us after the fire," Eland said. "Friends of ours also offered to take us in to their homes.
"They helped us focus on the task ahead, and for that we are very grateful."
The task ahead was a 10-month restoration process covered largely by the Elands' insurance as well as the determination to not give up on their dream. The Elands, who moved to Chester from northern Virginia to open the bed and breakfast, spent most of last year rebuilding the inn from memory, despite much lost sentimental value.
"You can't imagine what it takes to attempt to replace things you've lost that carried so much personal meaning," Eland said. "But nonetheless, working to restore the inn went a long ways to healing our frustration and heartache."
The restoration was expensive and arduous.
But on Nov. 22, the Elands finally moved back into their home.
It reopened for business during the Christmas holiday.
And now, the building which was first established in 1913 is accepting those seeking a taste of Southern relaxation once again.
But most importantly, the Elands have begun the process of moving on from the devastation brought upon them nearly a year ago.
"We can finally get our life back together again," Eland said.
See for yourself
The restored Magnolia Inn is having an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 8. The public is invited.
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