Foundation Work Begins at Manship House

Work to stabilize the foundation of the Manship House Museum has begun. The Mississippi legislature authorized funding through the Bureau of Building, Grounds, and Real Property for the first phase of the project, which includes bringing the one-story structure to level, replacing the chimneys, and installing a new HVAC system. Wayne F. Timmer of WFT Architects and Britt Maxwell of Maxwell Engineering are the project professionals, and MDAH will work with them to complete this phase by the end of the year.

MDAH staff has packed all the museum’s contents and overseen their move into secure storage. On May 14 employees of general contractor J.A. Moss began the process of removing the porches, porch steps, and wheel chair entrance ramp, the heating and cooling system and sprinkler piping from beneath the house, and all three chimneys. An exterior HVAC system has been installed temporarily to protect the house.

Measurements taken for a 1979 restoration of the historic house indicated the structure was eight inches out of level. The Yazoo Clay that underlies the region’s soil expands and contracts in reaction to temperature and moisture. An engineering analysis commissioned in 2009 by MDAH determined the potential vertical movement of the clay at the Manship House lot was three to six inches. That same report found the house to have shifted even further, with a difference of thirteen inches between the highest and lowest points. The three chimneys—reconstructed in the earlier restoration—weigh about thirty tons each and have not shifted as much as the wooden sections of the house. As the house has pulled away from the chimneys, holes have opened in the roof. The differential movement has caused large cracks in the plaster walls, especially between the corners of windowsills and the ceilings. Gaps at the bottom of many windows and doors exposed the historic furnishings of the museum to damaging insects, moisture, and extremes of temperature.

To bring the century-and-a-half-old house level, jacks will be positioned underneath the house and used to carefully raise the lower sections to the height of the highest corner. To minimize damage to the plaster walls the sections will be moved no more than 5/8” each day. The existing brick piers will be replaced with thirty-six concrete piers set into the more stable clay about thirty-five feet deep. Steel beams will be attached to the piers and will support the entire house, including the chimneys and porches.

Once the steel frame has been put in place and leveled, the visible sections of the chimneys will be rebuilt using that frame as a base. This will ensure that if any further shifting from the Yazoo Clay occurs, there will be no differential movement between parts of the house.

The scope of the second phase of work will be determined in part by the effects of Phase One to the roof, windows, and interior elements such as the plaster walls. Phase Two will also include exterior painting and all interior work needed to make the house ready for the artifacts, furniture, and furnishings to be reinstalled.

Four generations of the Manship family lived in the circa-1857 house built by Charles Henry and Adaline Daley Manship before the state acquired the property in 1975 to open as a museum. The Manship House is significant as an early example of Gothic Revival architecture in the state, and it is one of a handful of fully developed Cottage Gothic residences.

Charles Henry Manship was born in 1812 in Maryland, where he apprenticed to a noted furniture maker and ornamental painter. Manship came to Jackson on February 9, 1836, only fifteen years after the new capital city had been laid out. He soon found work as a skilled artisan on the statehouse and governor’s mansion. Later he would become active in community affairs, serving as alderman, city clerk, justice of the peace, postmaster, and mayor. As mayor he surrendered the city to Union general William T. Sherman in July 1863. In 1838 Manship married Adaline Daley. The couple had fifteen children, ten of whom survived to adulthood. The Manship House Museum features many original furnishings donated by the family, as well as examples of decorative graining and marbling and reproductions of original wallpaper.

To follow the progress of the project, visit the Manship House Museum’s new blog, Mississippi Victorian, at http://mdah.state.ms.us/mississippivictorian, or follow the link from our homepage. Staff will post construction pictures and updates, as well as give a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of a museum and examine artifacts from the Manship House and important events in the lives of the family. For more information call 601-961-4724 or email info@manshiphousemuseum.com.

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