In the current phase of restoration, workers from Callenco LLC of Sheffield, Ala., have replaced the home’s foundation, dug a new footer all around the house and have put piers in place that will support the columns that in turn hold up the roof over the wraparound porch.
The new elements will be covered with original materials.
“We’ve salvaged the 1857 brick, and we’ll go back and face it all,” explained Rick Caldwell, president of Callenco. “When it’s done you won’t see anything but the original bricks.”
The new steel beams in the construction will be obscured by the original white columns — providing the strength of modern materials while preserving the structure’s historical appearance.
Caldwell and his crew have managed to save all but two of the original columns and all of the window shutters. In restoring the rosettes that surround the house’s large windows and the intricate molding on the header boards, Caldwell is using specially constructed molds to create copies of the deteriorated originals in wood epoxy, a material that shares the same characteristics as wood.
Caldwell spent over two hours cleaning an eight-inch segment of the header that he used to create the mold for the wood epoxy. The section is ornately decorated with a classical Greek acanthus leaf pattern.
“You just don’t realize the detail until you see it up close,” Caldwell said, while inspecting the original. “Back in those days people didn’t take any shortcuts.”
The project is coming along very well, Caldwell said. The only major problem so far has been the situation with the roof. After starting the project, Caldwell discovered a leak in the roof that could possibly damage the new restoration work.
Members of the Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission — the managers of the property — are currently waiting for permission from the National Park Service national headquarters to use grant money for the current phase of restoration to complete the emergency repairs on the roof.
Grant funds for the first phase of restoration are being provided by a Federal Save America’s Treasures grant that is being matched by a Historic Preservation Grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Great care is given to use the right materials and methods of rehabilitation to preserve the character and longevity of the building, said Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission member Rosemary Williams. As the house is a National Historic Landmark, it must follow the standards of the Secretary of the Interior. As a Mississippi Landmark, the Mississippi Department of History has an easement regarding the methods and materials used for repairs and rehabilitation. All work must be approved by the Mississippi Department of Archives and by the National Park Service’s Washington office.
A National Historic Landmark is the highest honor given to a site or building in the United States. There are 16 NHL sites in Corinth, all related to the Civil War. The Verandah-Curlee House is the only structure.
“We are fortunate to have such a number of National Historic Landmarks in Corinth and especially the Verandah-Curlee House,” said Williams. “Caring for these properties requires special consideration and adequate funding. The City has budgeted a minimal amount of money through the years for maintenance, however we must remember that the building’s care suffered during the Civil War years and even more afterward due to the lack of funds and energy to maintain properly.”
Later in this phase of restoration, a new coat of paint will be added.
Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission members hope to raise enough money through fund-raising projects to pay for rehabilitating the interior.
The project’s estimated completion date is spring 2014. Then it’s on to the next step — the outbuilding and grounds.
“The workers have to get to the bones of a rehabilitation project for the first important repairs and replacements, then attend to the more cosmetic issues which are more interesting to the public,” Williams pointed out.
Williams said it is important to make every effort to preserve Corinth’s historic buildings; not only do they convey the character and history of the community which make it unique, they also provide huge opportunities for economic development.