Sunday, December 13, 2015

We Got Chimney!

Michael Hoge and his craftsmen have basically finished restoring the interior chimney at the Duncan House. As you can see, "interior chimney" means that the chimney is inside the wall of the house and isn't visible from the exterior.   

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Twisted Chimney

Restoring The Historic Duncan House, (Circa 1858) Headquarters for Generals, 810 Polk, Corinth, MS.
You may recall that our 'commitment' on the Duncan House is to restore the outside as close as possible (and feasible) to how it looked in 1862. Our intent is to have the interior quite 'livable' but not historically's undergone way too many re-modelings in the last 160 years for that!

However, the house did had an interior fireplace (added well after 1862) that basically disintegrated as the move began. We are replacing that entire fireplace.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

CORINTH 1862 Siege, Battle, Occupation

In my quest to learn more about The Duncan House, it's been necessary to learn more about the history of our own city. We all know that Shiloh was fought over the railroads here in Corinth....but Corinth, alone, played a huge part in the events of the day. And here is THE book on the subject. As you can see, it's called "CORINTH 1862 Siege, Battle, Occupation". I tell you, if you are interested in our town, you NEED to read this book. It's most entertaining and enlightening and I enjoyed reading every word. We just have no comprehension of what role our City played in that era so long ago. 
Gen. Halleck, head of all the Federal forces said this:

"Richmond and Corinth are now the great strategical points of war, and our success at these points should be insured at all hazards."

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Hawk Has Landed

When we moved the house, we titled it; "The Eagle Has Landed". So, now that the infamous 'shed' has been finally been moved through the mud onto it's permanent pad, we can title it; "The Hawk Has Landed".

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Exposing the Skeleton of the Duncan House

We had an interesting time viewing the 'skeleton' of the Duncan House this week.  We were searching for  clues of what the original front windows and front door(s) looked like.  It's amazing what a trained professional like Chelius Carter can reconstruct from looking 'inside' the outer skin. Original boards and timbers, nail holes, cross beams, ghost prints of all kinds can paint a vivid picture of what the house originally looked like.

Duncan House outbuilding sustains a direct hit!

A bit of bad news with the Duncan House 'shed' that we are moving. It caught a direct hit from a 6" oak limb that fell as a result of the high winds and rain we had last night. The limb penetrated the roof as well as the loft of the old building.
The shed is sitting waiting to be moved to it's new concrete pad close to the Duncan House. Brian Reese, 4th generation member of Elder House Movers that is responsible for the project, promises that he will have it moved soon, hopefully next week!
It remains to be seen if Brian will charge more to move it with the new unwanted passenger.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

So, who was this W. L. Duncan that built the Duncan House?

Earliest known drawing of Mr. Duncan's home
Well, thanks to much work by my friend, Richie Burnette [now from Oxford, formerly of Corinth-with his family going back seven generations on the same block as the Duncan House], here is the biography of its first owner, Mr. W. L. Duncan.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

You can count the steps!

Several folks have inquired why the re-positioned Duncan House is sitting so high up off the ground. The answer is in 1862 it originally was sitting up that high. When it was moved to the other side of the block in the early 20th century, it was placed very close to the ground. We are attempting to restore its original appearance. This old photograph should help explain the height issue. It was made in 1914 on the steps in front of the Duncan House, before the house was moved. If you count the steps, you can get a rough idea of the house's 19th Century height.

In 1914, the house was owned by W. Thomas and Lillian Young. and the two adorable girls are Estelle and Marjorie, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Young.  Estelle was about five years old and Marjorie was about three when the photo was taken. Descendants of the Young family owned the house for well over 100 years.

Estelle grew up and married Buddy Vaughan, and 'Telle and Buddy had three daughters; Lillian Vaughan Yoakum, Rosemary Vaughan Tweedle Aldridge, and Janet Vaughan Krohn. The three girls grew up in the Duncan House.

Thankfully, Janet is interested in history and has the brainpower to keep it all straight. She has been and will continue to be a great resource for information about their old family home. And, yes, we thank her for sharing this cute photo of her mom and aunt.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Thomas D. Duncan's book for less than a buck

I previously mentioned Thomas D. Duncan’s brilliant book about his experiences in the Civil War, which the old soldier wrote while living in the Duncan House.

I just bought the Kindle version of this book for $.99 on Amazon. It went to my iPad (I have the free Kindle app) and I'm pleased to say it reads just perfectly on the iPad. I just searched for "Thomas D. Duncan, Recollections" on Amazon and several things popped up.

Monday, October 19, 2015

And they put WHAT in the mortar?

Below is a piece of 'mortar' I picked up from inside the wall of the Duncan House while the interior of the wall was exposed. I think it would be called mortar or stucco, or maybe 'chinking'.
If you look closely at the photo of this old 1858 mortar you can see many strands of hair protruding out.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

If they’d left this decision up to me I wouldn’t be doing this, but…

The newly prepared form for the outbuilding foundation now awaits its load of concrete. This pad is located on the north side of the Duncan House. The outbuilding will align north and south, with the doors located on the north end.

You ask, "But why go to the trouble of saving an old shed like that?" Well, I asked the same question, and the answer is, even though this building (probably a very early car garage) was not associated

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Thomas Duncan Quote Highlights New Mississippi Monument on Shiloh Battlefield

Unveiled this past Saturday, Shiloh’s magnificent new Mississippi monument features a quote by battle veteran Thomas D. Duncan, who lived right here in Corinth at his family home, the historic Duncan House.

Friday, October 9, 2015

New Mississippi Monument at Shiloh Battlefield has Corinth Connection

You have read and heard much about the new Mississippi Monument unveiled at Shiloh Battlefield, 11 a.m. on Saturday, October 10th, 2015. What you likely don't know is we in Corinth have a very close connection with the monument. Its design incorporates two quotes chiseled into the granite base. One of these quotes is from a soldier named Thomas D. Duncan.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

QR Code added to Duncan House Signage

Something new has been added to the construction sign in front of the historic Duncan House – the QR code for the URL of this rehabilitation blog. [A QR code (abbreviated from “Quick Response Code”) is a machine-readable optical label containing information about the item to which it is attached.]

When tourists scan this particular matrix barcode with their smartphones, a QR reader takes them to the website. This High Tech feature thus provides visitors on-site, accurate, in-depth, and up-to-date information on our restoration project. What a handy addition for the interpretation of one of only four surviving Civil War structures in Corinth!

Thanks to John Orman for making the QR Code stickers for us!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Indeed we do! The Duncan House is now OFF the steel beams and resting on the piers and foundation that should hold it for another 160 years! So, the height off the ground you see as you drive by is the height it will remain. I think bringing the historic old home back up to its original height greatly improves its looks.

Soon, we will finish the block/brick work and will move on to yet another phase of restoration. It's an adventure, for sure!

Hopefully, we will soon be preparing a pad for the 'outbuilding' to rest on. I have hopes of placing it on its permanent site within the next couple of weeks.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pier One

It was a big day on Polk Street as we finished the first 'pier' under the Duncan House, complete with antique brick and the proper color/mix of mortar. There are probably 16-18 visible piers and should all look similar. In between the piers will be period latticework covering a dark background. I think it's going to look great! We hope to finish bricking the piers tomorrow.

By the way, you may have seen some of these bricks as you rode by the old Corinth Machinery Company. Aren't they beautiful? I understand Corinth Machinery Company was built around 1869, so they are close to matching the pre-war period…

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Let the New Phase of this project begin!

Many months of planning, praying, moving dirt, waiting on permissions, waiting on the rain to stop, cussin', moving the house, etc., etc., is now behind us, and we think a new phase is beginning.

As you can see, the blocks, special mortar mix(es) and sand are all in place. Antique brick arrive tomorrow morning early and the piers should be built exactly according to plan. We hope to give Mr. Elder's steel (upon which the house continues to rest) back to him soon - we have had it tied up WAY too long.

Perhaps next time you drive past you can see some piers rising from the ground. Keep your fingers crossed. Lots of work to do, but let the fun....continue!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sign of the Times

Currently standing on the Duncan House lot, this “project sign” shows a historical architect’s drawing of the house.

After all practical modifications are completed, our goal is to match the building’s exterior as closely as possible to the 1862 appearance as depicted here. The front windows will be very large. The rehabilitated house certainly won’t look exactly like the architectural drawing, but many of the features will be restored. For sure, the house will be high off the ground, as it was in the past. The steps leading to the portico will be interesting, as we will have several feet to rise from the sidewalk. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

1880s View

This picture of the Duncan House shows the home in the early 1880s, and is taken from its earliest known photo. This image first appeared in "The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine" and later in "Battles and Leaders," along with photos of other Civil War homes in Corinth at that time. Unfortunately, the giant bushes seen here are hiding the home’s iconic front windows.

Now that the moving phase is complete, we can begin the difficult task of recreating the Duncan House’s original appearance.

Monday, August 31, 2015


The historic Duncan House is now sitting above its new foundation, awaiting the piers to be installed. It's sitting HIGH and proud, just as the Historical Restoration plan calls for!

This picture also show the "old bird" who got me into this deal more than a year ago: Woody Harrell, the now retired former superintendent of Shiloh National Military Park. This year marks a quarter century of Woody’s involvement in preserving and promoting Corinth’s rich Civil War heritage. His encouragement resulted in me being caught up in this slow moving, but always interesting project!

Friday, August 21, 2015

How Firm a Foundation?

The footings were dug today per the required specs, and that new foundation should hold up a bank vault. [An apt analogy, as that's what I'll need to rob when we go to filling those massive trenches with concrete!]

It's FUN to move a historic property while complying with all the pertinent preservation rules and guidelines! The Duncan House is one of 16 contributing properties for the "Siege and Battle of Corinth National Historic Landmark." An NHL is the highest level of significance by which the government designates historic sites.

Friday, August 14, 2015

342 inches = 28.5 feet = 8.6868 meters

Yeah....but why move the old house 28.5 feet?

Well, a picture is said to be worth a thousand words. So, here is a picture from earlier this year:

Although the Duncan House was here first (moved from the southeast corner of the same block), when it was placed on this lot within a foot of the property line, no zoning laws were in effect. So, when our neighbor built his studio over his small garage, things tightened up quite a bit space-wise.

In order to be able to showcase the Duncan House as close as possible to its Civil War appearance, the old home needed to be moved to the center of the lot and away from its neighbor. That move will enable us to restore the house’s exterior to its 1862 look. (This restoration includes raising the home higher off the ground.) It took a 28.5 foot move to get the Duncan House close to the center of the lot. So, that's the preservation plan we presented to the National Park Service, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and the city. Now you know why 28.5 feet.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Duncan House on TV!

The restoration of the Duncan House made the news today on Tupelo’s WTVA. Here is a link to a short clip entitled Historical Corinth Home to be Restored.

CORINTH, Miss. (WTVA) -- It's one of the oldest houses in Corinth and now, it's about to be saved. Four houses that were built prior to the Civil War remain in Corinth. The Duncan House is among them.

Kenneth Williams says the house was built by William Duncan in 1858. It originally stood just around the corner from its present location. During the Civil War, it was occupied by a Confederate and a Union general - at separate times, of course. The five-room frame house is being moved 26 feet from its present location.

"It probably won't be worth one bit more once it's relocated and fixed up than it was previously, but it's something the community needs and we're excited about doing it,” says Williams.

Williams says the exterior of the home will be restored to its original design.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Duncan House took a short journey today!

The Duncan House took a short journey today! It's being moved 28.5 feet to distance the historic structure from its twentieth century neighbor, and to help restore the old home to its original Civil War era appearance.

NA and I bought the threatened property a year ago to preserve it. The meticulous process of research, restoration planning, and governmental approval, not to mention weather delays, have caused a year to pass before the actual moving work could begin.

Our plan is to restore the building’s exterior to its authentic 1862 look. The Duncan House is one of only four pre-Civil War structures remaining in Corinth. The antebellum home is a key contributing feature to Corinth’s Civil War National Historic Landmark, and to insure we maintained that designation, the National Park Service had to approve each step along the way. The Duncan House will remain on its temporary wheels for a week or two, then will be set in its new permanent location, less than nine yards from its location for the past century! We are excited, and hope it will be another interesting historic attraction here in Corinth, for our citizens as well as out of town guests.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Thumbnail History of the Duncan House

Below is a photo of the interpretive sign placed in the yard of the Duncan House in the early 1990s by the joint city-county Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission. Based on the best historic research available at the time, the text for this exhibit panel was reviewed and approved at both the state and federal levels.

Since (contrary to what many of my younger running buddies assume) I was not around in 1862, I will rely on this brief description as a “thumbnail sketch” of the home’s history during the Civil War:

"Built shortly before the Battle of Corinth by W. L. Duncan, this five-room frame house originally stood on Jackson Street, around the corner from here. Several remodelings give the house a newer look than is shown in the 19th century sketch above, but the structure's original form can still be recognized. The house is presently being restored.

Confederate General Pierre G. T. Beauregard headquartered here in 1862 until he moved to the Fish Pond House after the Battle of Shiloh. Union General William Rosecrans is thought to have occupied the dwelling for a time before taking command of the Army of the Cumberland."

Friday, July 3, 2015

1860 M.A. Miller Sketch

Below is the earliest known visual recording of Corinth’s historic Duncan House. This sketch was done in 1860 by M.A. Miller, an engineer working in Memphis. For unknown reasons, Miller sketched more than 100 buildings in Corinth, including the Duncan House. His drawings are contained in a sketch book, which was given to the Corinth Public Library around 1990, by a Miller relative living in Virginia. I don't pretend to be an expert on the Miller sketches, but I can assure you Corinth is mighty blessed to have this unique visual record of our City from the first decade of its existence!

This small sketch of the Duncan House is amazing. Note the written description of the front windows: "21 lights, 7 X 3." That means there were 21 panes of glass total, seven panes high and three panes wide - a huge window! We hope to be able to replicate those windows. Also note the house originally had a portico on the front, rather than a long porch. We hope to replace the portico soon.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day, 2015, at the Duncan House

Chelius H. Carter is a Consultant for the Restoration, Renovation and Redesign of Old and Historic Buildings. He is from Holly Springs and is helping NA and me with the Duncan House project. On Father's Day, he made a discovery deep under the Duncan House. I’ll let him tell this story in his own words. I think you will like his message:

"Today is Father's Day. It will be my seventh, counting the time Amelia was "in the oven." Regretfully, neither Amelia nor Townes are here; they are at my mom's home, north of Millington, Tennessee, and Jenifer is in Fredericksburg, Virginia. So, I spent my Father's Day crawling under the Duncan House (ca. 1859) in Corinth, Mississippi, trying to determine existing conditions of its structural frame, prior to the house being lifted and relocated. Crawling over broken bricks, pipes, through cobwebs, mud puddles, various specimens of excrement, banging against floor joists, and over the detritus of 100 years of changes (many), since the house was last moved in 1915, has left my body absolutely wrecked.

Not exactly the Hallmark Card sort of Father's Day to cheer up this old fossil! THEN I found this wonderful piece of period chalk graffiti, left by a carpenter, who, like me, was obviously thinking of his family while working on the same structure in the late 1850s. He apparently had a lot of girls - I see four young girls and two older ones. What can be safely assumed to be his wife is crudely sketched in a nice period day dress at lower right. The figure next to her is hard to make out, but I've enlarged it, and conclude it is a piece of parlor furniture. Another image partially lost at left looks like a dog. Dad's not depicted, he is off working! This will do for my Father's Day card, until I get one of Amelia's masterpieces. Love these little hidden discoveries in this odd work that Jenifer and I do!"