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Sandy Managed To Damage Some Of the United States’ Literary History

Jefferson-Signed Documents Harmed Inside UES High-End Book Store
Historic documents damaged by Sandy

A high-end book store and gallery on the Upper East Side has in its possession acts of Congress documents signed by Thomas Jefferson, among many other historical documents. The problem is Hurricane Sandy somehow managed to damage some of them. (Photo: CBS 2)

Superstorm Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The damage from Superstorm Sandy crept in to some unexpected places.

On the Upper East Side, the losses extend to historical documents.

It was at Argosy Books and Gallery that the worlds of Thomas Jefferson and Hurricane Sandy collided.

The acts of Congress from the 1790s, with Jefferson signatures, were worth $15,000 per page, but now they’re waterlogged.

“Everything is one of kind here,” Argosy’s Naomi Hample told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin. “These were on the floor of the closet in a cardboard box and I reached for it and I knew.”

The damage was widespread across the top two floors of this six-story store and gallery. When Sandy slammed Manhattan the facade of the high-rise next door started coming apart.

“The bricks fell from the 33rd floor onto our six story building, so they were like bombs and they created holes in the roof, big holes, and during the next three days water got in and spread and spread,” Hample said.

The store’s three owners must throw out first edition and signed books, each worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, including one by J.D. Salinger.

“It’s history being lost,” Judith Lowry said. “It doesn’t look so bad on the outside, but when you open it you see that and you see the mold underneath, so that book has to be thrown out.”

Along with the irreplaceable merchandise lost the Argosy owners also lost three full days of retail sales. Still they said they feel lucky.

“No one was hurt. We still have the rest of our inventory,” Adina Cohen said.

As the owners salvaged what they could Friday night, the Jefferson documents were the priority, and were placed in a freezer.

“It’s going to be taken in a freezer bag to a conservator,” Hample said. “The signature wasn’t touch. If it was touched it would be tossed.”

The historical documents, like so many other things Sandy battered, will take many months to repair.

Store owners said they cannot donate or give away the water-soaked books because mold is spreading on them.

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