Friday, October 28, 2016

New Sign Under Wraps...

I'm pleased we were able to place a Mississippi Department of Archives and History marker at the Duncan House today. MDOT erects these signs for Archives and History and a wonderful crew from Tupelo was here this morning for that job. me, that sign brings real authenticity to the restoration project and I'm just delighted it's in place.

Yep, for now it's covered up....and awaits it's unveiling. We are going to do that at 1:30pm on Saturday, November 5th....the day of the Grand Illumination and all the other fun things occurring that day.....AND YOU ARE INVITED!

We will have a short ceremony to unveil the marker at 1:30, likely lasting no more than 20 minutes. It will feature our friends from the National Park Service and MDAH, as well as several local officials. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Four Views: The Duncan House Through the Years

Thought you might like to see the progression/restoration/transformation of the Duncan House over the last 160 years. 

The first visual record of the Duncan House was in a sketch drawn by a man named Miller, who came to Corinth from Memphis and sketched every home and business in town in 1860, including the Duncan House. (what a wonderful story....and fantastic asset....this sketch book is to our community!)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Sparse Plantings...

We are getting very close to finishing the Duncan House project! It began in July of 2014,'s time, for sure.

Thought you might be interested in a few things in this photo. First, you can see we have begun the job of putting in 'sparse plantings'....they didn't have a lot of plants and bushes around their houses in 1858! 

Note the plants are placed away from the house, and immediately next to the house is the 'drip pad', made of gravel. This catches the rainwater as it comes off the house and lets it disperse without beating down the plants. The drip pad is composed of specific gravel of the "proper" size and color. Next to the drip pad goes the bed where the occasional bush is planted.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Piece of the Past Preserved...

We made serious progress today! Started early by mounting and installing the ten foot 'working' shutters on the front windows. They actually open and close. They were made to specs by Thad Pratt, Vicksburg Woodworks, who also made the windows and provided all of the milled lumber. 

Got the front sidewalk poured and it looks so much better than the other one now buried under that red fill sand.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A "Robin's Egg Blue" Porch Ceiling

It's an old Southern tradition to paint the ceiling of one's porch blue. In our case....."Robin's Egg Blue." Some say it's "because grandmother did it," others say it's a calming, cooling color which makes you feel better. What I've heard is bugs (wasps, mosquitoes, flies, dirt-dabbers) think the blue is the sky....and that they aren't protected from predators they don't chose to hang around that 'sky' looking ceiling. And then there are those that believe the blue protects the house from 'haints' and makes the house 'safer'. Have you heard of the color "haint blue"?

So, as you can see, the ceiling of the new portico is blue! It seems to blend well with the 'Gull Wing Gray" and the "Timid White". Don't you love paint color names?

Look closely when you pass next. Hopefully there won't be any bugs or haints to spoil your view!!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Former Residents Return to The Duncan House

As you can see, we made some progress this week.  The colors you see are basically 'true', so it's gray with white trim.  The colors were analyzed by a paint specialist from Williamsburg.  One of the samples had NINETEEN coats of paint...and another had 17.  That's from 158 years.  The base color of the house is Gull Wing Gray and the trim is "Timid White."

But we have bigger news!  We have former residents returning to The Duncan House, and no, it's not General Rosecrans nor General Beauregard's Tom and Nita Parson, former residents of The Duncan House.  Months ago we had a meeting of the minds and all agreed that they would return and be residents again, as soon as it was possible.

Friday, July 1, 2016


I'm excited to report the official State of Mississippi, Department of Archives and History historical marker for the Duncan House has been ordered. The few sentences being cast in aluminum for the marker have been researched, studied, and hammered out by both the National Park Service and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. These words tell a remarkable story of Corinth as well as the Duncan House and how all this history fits together.  The inscription will read:


Built in 1857 by William L. Duncan, the 
Duncan House was the headquarters of
Confederate general P.G.T. Beauregard
after the battle of Shiloh. In June 1862, 
Union general William Rosecrans made the 
house his headquarters during the battle 
of Corinth. It was later occupied by
Maj. Noel Howard of the 2nd Iowa Infantry
and used as a telegraph office. After the 
war, Pvt. Thomas Duncan, a Confederate 
soldier with the "Tishomingo Rangers,"
returned to his boyhood home and
began writing his "Recollections" here. 

Just a bit of explanation which you likely know already. When the war began, Corinth was in Confederate hands. General Beauregard was headquartered at the Fishpond House (Johnny Spencer's home on Kilpatrick Street). After General Albert Sidney Johnson was killed in the Battle of Shiloh, Beauregard became commander of the Confederates. When he retreated back to Corinth from Shiloh, Beauregard took the Duncan House as his headquarters. Interestingly, the Federals took nearly two months to come the 20 miles from Shiloh to Corinth, digging in every night. In one of the greatest 'ruses' of the war, when the Federals finally marched into town in late May, 1862, they were greeted by an empty village. Beauregard had evacuated his entire command. General William Rosecrans, the commander of the Federals, moved into Beauregard's recently vacated headquarters, the Duncan House. After Beauregard's withdrawal, the Federals controlled Corinth until the War's end.   

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Portico is built!

We have come a long way in this process. As you can see, the portico is built, complete with trim work and wonderful columns. The massive steps are in place. They stretch from pillar to pillar on the front. They are made from thick and heavy wood that has been milled.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Clapboards vs match-boards, and why?

More progress on the Duncan House. The front is taking shape now. The portico is virtually built and is very nice.

I've been particularly interested in the boards used under the portico, especially as compared to the other boards on either side of the portico.  It's easy to see the 'clapboards' that cover most of the house.  They are tear-drop boards....larger at the bottom than at the top, allowing rainwater to run off. 

But we are not using clapboards under the portico. The boards we are instructed to use are tongue and groove boards, AND they are of different widths....some are 4" and some are 6", and they are put up in rather a haphazard manner, without a pattern.  I asked Chelius H. Carter about this whole 'style' and here is what he told me (which, actually, is a rather short explanation for him! :-)

"NOW…Why did we use 'match-boards' between the pilasters and in the front gable and regular clapboard everywhere else?
"It is a 19th century (and earlier) carpentry interpretation of Greek temple construction…this being a house in the 'Greek Revival' form or style. Often the front facades of ancient temples utilized smooth, finished blocks of stone termed “ashlar” to formalize the front entry; the sides would have a rougher cut stone. The clapboard is a carpentry representation of the latter material, while the 'match-board,' which are really simple floorboards laid up vertically, represent the finished or 'ashlar' stonework, formalizing the home’s entry. The gable or in proper temple elements’ terminology, the 'tympanum.' accomplishes the same aesthetic function.

"NOW…Why did we use different sized material in this 'match-board' business? In the mid-19th century and before that for centuries, as long as there have been wooden floors and wood siding, it has ALWAYS been “random width”…the planks came out of the sawmill at varied widths depending on what part of the log the planks came from - those people were interested in getting as much material out of the log as possible and that their clapboards and floorboards varied in width was of no concern…I have images of an 18th century clapboard house in Chestertown, Maryland, that has exterior planks ranging from 4 inches in face dimension to 20 inches. If you were to look at the original flooring of the William Duncan House (under two later floors)…you would find 'random width' flooring, varying from 4 inches face dimension to 7 or 8 inches. As for the face of the portico and its tympanum, it was specified that the boards be a mix of 4 inch and 6 inch, installed at random to give the same effect. So…there it is."

My friends, now you KNOW!!!

Ok, don't get too excited about that beautiful wood.  It's got to be painted!  Yes, that's correct!  The only thing that will be stained will be the doors themselves.  The side lights and transom will be painted.  I've begged, but to no avail.  So, we are trying to do it correctly.

More progress was made today (including a primer on that pretty raw wood) and the steps are being put in place.  The steps are huge, as you can imagine, and stretch from brick pier to brick pier.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

So...What Color Was The Duncan House in 1858?

One of the most interesting phases of this long restoration project is occurring right now. We are in the process of determining what the original paint color(s) of the Duncan House were. I'm sure there are several ways of doing this, but we went the scientific route and sent samples to a PhD in Williamsburg, a professional paint analyst. We sent samples of the house body, the trim and the fascia. You will be surprised, like me, to know that the fascia had NINETEEN coats of paint on it and the trim had 17!!!
Above in the photo is a side cut of the trim sample, multiplied 40 X (some photos were 100 X). You can see many of the 17 coats of paint in the photo.
Some of the results are most interesting, even surprising.
The body of the house was a light grey! (surprising)
The trim was an off white (not surprising)
The fascia was a grey-brown! (surprising)
The results returned from the analyst include the exact paint match for the three. I think you will find that the combination, when the painting is completed, will be very striking!
I had just assumed that it....all....houses of the 1850-60s were white. Not so, say the experts, and The Duncan House fits into that thinking.
Remember, the interior of the house is not being restored nor will it be open for viewing. It will be a private residence. But the exterior, hopefully, will look much like it did 160 years ago.
Thanks for your interest in this project.

Visible Progress being made on The Duncan House

FINALLY visible progress is being made! Now, hopefully you can see how it looked 160 years ago....and why it had the residents it had! You can see part of the tall window on the south side. Much remaining, but "coming along"!

Work beginning on Portico

We are beginning on the portico! About half the decking has been put down. The boards are all milled, tongue and grove, a little more than 1.5 inches thick. Hopefully we can make steady progress tomorrow.

From Historic Preservation Consultant, Chelius Carter

This was posted on my timeline by Chelius Carter, my Historic Preservation Consultant, May 23, 2016. 
Chelius H. Carter added 4 new photos.
One of the things I've been up to: the historic William Duncan House in Corinth, Mississippi
The Duncan House, built in 1858 is one of four known surviving antebellum residences within the National Historic Landmark "Corinth Siege and Battlefield Sites" was CSA Gen. Beauregard's headquarters, following the Battle of Shiloh; then USA Gen. Rosecrans' headquarters during the Corinth Siege & Battle there.
My client, Kenneth Williams generously stepped into the breach when this structure was threatened with demolition and elected to personally fund an historic rehabilitation of the house and site (it had moved perpendicularly from its original location in about 1920), and restore the front facade as closely as we could determine to its period of historic significance in 1862.
This involved re-siting the house on the lot AWAY from its fast-encroaching neighbor and more in the center of the lot, as it was on its original site and raising the whole back up on prominent 4'-0 piers. All needing approval through both Mississippi Department of Archives & History and the National Park Service. This has been a complex project...and Kenneth has been a long-suffering and patient client.
What the pictures below show is the existing conditions, when I was first brought in as Historic Preservation Consultant; my restoration design of the front elevation; then its re-siting (thankfully losing that early 20th century porch) and just door, transom & side-lights. This is going to be a wonderful addition to Corinth's historic context and the city anxiously awaits (as does my client) the completion of this fine project!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Front Windows and Door Unit installed!

I'm excited to report progress on The Duncan House! Windows are being installed and the door unit is in! We are very pleased at what we are seeing! All was made at Vicksburg Woodworks and is beautiful work.
The design is as close as possible to the original front windows and door. The massive windows are as Mr. Miller sketched them out in his sketchbook in 1860. He said "front window, 21 lights, 7X3", and that's what we have, 21 lights (panes).

Monday, April 4, 2016

DUNCAN HOUSE REPORT - Skirt Board Going Up!

The continuing saga of the restoration of The Duncan House, 810 Polk Street, Corinth, MS

We are soon to be installing the "skirt board"....sometimes called the apron board.... onto the Duncan House.  Likely you know a lot more about this than me, as it was all new to me.  The skirt board is the big, wide board at the very bottom of the house that helps deflect the rain water away from the bottom part of the house.  I think most frame houses have skirt boards.  See the board circled in red below.

The Shed Is Looking Better

Restoring The Duncan House, Headquarters for Generals, 810 Polk, Corinth, MS

Progress continues, but slowly, on the restoration of the Duncan House. Here you see that the 'shed' of the building has been patched, repaired and the 'primer' coat of paint applied. Likely it will be the same color as the house, but that has not yet been fully determined (although technical forensic research is continuing).

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Electricity is back on!

Restoring The Duncan House, Headquarters for Generals, 810 Polk, Corinth, MS

Can you see the twinkles inside the windows? Those are lights burning....and lights burning means ELECTRICITY!!! Thanks to the fine folks from ACE Power and the Wilbanks team, we now have power in the Duncan House! It's been...what....6 months since we last had power? Restoration is a slow process!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Fence To Enhance The Focus Onto The House

Restoring The Duncan House, Headquarters for Generals, 810 Polk, Corinth, MS

The new fence at the Duncan House is coming along nicely. It will stretch across the south end of the property, then turn and run north across the rear of the lot. The purpose is not to protect against our fine neighbors, but rather to give the house its own allow the focus to be upon the house, rather than the 'busy' background.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Although ugly and muddy, we are making progress at The Duncan House.  Seen here is the preparation for the underground utilities that will, hopefully, hide electrical wires...which, of course, were not around in 1858.

First, a reminder:  The house will NOT be open for visitors.  It's going to be the residence for some special people (more on that later), and it's going to be their home, and not a museum open to the public.  Fact is, the interior, while being clean, tight and comfortable for living, has long ago lost most all it's 'original' features, so restoration of the interior....if even possible, was certainly not practical for a private individual.  We are, however, restoring a nice and accurate EXTERIOR of the house for visitors to see, but not restoring the interior to it's former shape.

Monday, January 11, 2016

NE MS Daily Journal On The Duncan House, 1996

CORINTH – The old Duncan House, now a National Historic Landmark, served as headquarters for generals during the Battle of Shiloh and the Siege of Corinth and Battle of Corinth.

This article was written and published in The NE Mississippi Daily Journal in 1996.  It's an interesting and informative article, written by Jane Clark Summers.  Some data gathered in the 20 years since this was written might vary slightly from the article.  Regardless, it's an excellent article and well-written.  


TODAY, yes, on late Sunday afternoon, we got the master craftsmen together to coordinate the building of and later installation... of the big windows and front door unit.  Danny Shook, James Ford and Thad Pratt, Vicksburg....Thad is building the windows and door unit per specs from Chelius Carter.  Thad was in town today and we took the opportunity to make sure we were all singing from the same page of the hymnal!