Paul Williams, 65, who taught at the school, said when he stopped in on Thursday, the first day of the flood, he just looked around, cried and left.
“I couldn’t stand it,” he said.
He was back on Friday to look through the damage. His fiddle was still missing, but some friends’ fiddles were there, and he found a carved headstock for a mandolin he’d been working on.
A local man stopped in to mourn the loss of the trove of beautiful, handcrafted instruments, and asked about a guitar with a birdseye maple neck he’d had his eye on.
“It’s probably still here,” Williams said, pointing to a room with a mass of tangled wood. “I just don’t know what kind of condition it’s in.”
Next to the settlement school, flooding damaged the Troublesome Creek Stringed Instrument Co., including its factory, sand many valuable instruments, said Bill Weinberg, who in on the board.
The company employs more than a dozen people in making dulcimers, guitars and mandolins. The office manager set up a GoFundMe account for donations.
“I’m just astounded they got the damage they did,” he said. “It’s a mess.”
Appalshop was established in 1969 to train young people in film-making, improve the economy and provide a contrary narrative to negative stereotypes about the region.
It has evolved in more than 50 years to include a record label, a theater, a radio station, a solar project and community development work, but a key part of the mission remains to “document, disseminate, and revitalize the lasting traditions and contemporary creativity of Appalachia.”