Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Miller Dog-trot in Webster Parish

Hubby and I recently visited with Mr. and Mrs. Larry Jernigan, the owners of THE MILLER HOUSE just outside of Minden, Louisiana. (Click on the link for more information on the Jernigan's lovely home.) Hubby and I toured the Jernigan's early 1800's dog-trot a few weekends ago, and I have to say that we were more than impressed. Mr. Jernigan has lovingly restored this beautiful property and was eager to share a few tips with us. The Miller house is very similar to our dog-trot, and I have to admit that I had chills while I was walking through another early settler's home. Would the Miller family have been friends with the Taylor family? It's certainly possible.

Below is a photo of Mr. Larry Jernigan in front of THE MILLER HOUSE. Notice the lovely dog-trot that cuts through the center of the house, and the beautiful metal roof. This house has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and as we were walking through the wooden-walled rooms of THE MILLER HOUSE it was very easy for us to imagine what our own home will look like post-restoration.


Larry Jernigan standing in front of THE MILLER HOUSE, his beautiful dog-trot home just outside of Minden, Louisiana.

There were many unique features of the Jernigan's dog-trot that intrigued us. We loved the doors that enclose the dog-trot itself during harsh weather, and we have similar plans to enclose our dog-trot, too. But one of our favorite details of THE MILLER HOUSE was found in a window sill. A small hook was placed on the top of the window sash, and a nail was curved around a hook above it. When the window was raised, the bent nail was placed in the window's hook. This was a very primitive, and brilliant, way to prevent the windows from slamming shut. It took us all of two seconds to realize that we should adapt this technique within the windows of THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK!


Curved nail hook in window of THE MILLER HOUSE.

THE MILLER HOUSE and THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK are less than thirty miles away from one another, both located in northern Louisiana. But their location is not the only characteristic they have in common. After comparing their architectural details, it's easy to see that these two homes are nearly identical. With both of our homes, the porches are of the French-styled dog-trot design common to southern Louisiana. The fireplaces of both houses were made of red brick. The wooden floors in both houses are identical as well, as are the original columns for both homes' original front porches. And both houses use cypress planks for siding instead of traditional logs. Both of our houses were once clad with wooden shingles for roofing, though both houses' wooden-shingled roofs were removed because of deterioration. All in all, despite the differences in dimensions, the front four rooms and the dog-trot in THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK are almost an exact replica of THE MILLER HOUSE.

There are a few differences in these two historic homes, however. Our dog-trot has a second story and a staircase, and the upper floor of THE MILLER HOUSE was never used for living quarters. Our dog-trot still has an additional four rooms located behind the traditional four-roomed dog-trot design, but THE MILLER HOUSE does not. THE MILLER HOUSE is also surrounded by many original outbuildings, but THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK has only a deteriorating mule barn and an unsalvageable smokehouse/chicken house. Our house has been painted white, and THE MILLER HOUSE proudly wears unstained, unpainted cypress siding. So despite the fact that our historic dog-trots are very similar, they do appear to be very different from the outside.

Which do you like? If you were building a new dog-trot, would you paint it white (and then scrape and repaint it again through the years) or leave the wooden siding unpainted? We're staying true to the history of our home and repainting it white again. But I have to admit that I'm a little bit jealous of the Jernigan's maintenance-free unpainted siding!

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