The Looney House, possibly the oldest dogtrot house in Alabama, held a restoration event this past weekend. This is the first official restoration on the house since 1972.
The St. Clair Historical Society is in charge of the makeover, but Frank Waid has been the one man behind all of the most recent developments. Waid has been working on the house for more than a month.
“This is an amazing piece of craftsmanship,” said Waid.
The house is possibly the oldest of its kind in Alabama, but Waid is sure it is certainly the one in the best condition.
“My wife is a member, so I’m a family member. So they asked me if I would look at things, so next thing I knew it was sort of my project,” said Waid.
To the knowledge of the historical society, nothing has ever been done to the house more than just a few touch-ups. This was the first time the house is getting a full look over and treatment.
“At the time some of the touch ups, like putting in this chink with concrete, that’s a no-no, but at the time they didn’t know that,” said Waid.
The sides, as part of past touchups, were smeared with concrete to keep the wood from splitting. Over time it has cracked due to the expansion and contraction of the wood.
Water has gotten behind the concrete and chinking used to plug holes in the wood. Because it was unable to drain and has caused the wood to rot even more.
However, there’s a reason the house is still standing, in what Waid called ‘great condition’ is because of how strong the original structure was built. The dovetail joints are the reason the house has never waivered through all of the Alabama storms, allowing each corner of the house to lock in to one another.
[Text Wrapping Break]“They’re not going anywhere, most of it is just superficial. They are just strong, and that is what has kept it together, but settling has to be watched. Over the years it has settled some and the chinking kept falling.
It has taken Waid careful work to replace certain pieces of the exterior. Most of it required fitting pieces of wood into the cracked, rotten wood like a puzzle piece. He’s using an epoxy, which will hopefully expand and contract with the wood better than chinking.
Besides the tasks of removing concrete and reinforcing the cracks, Waid also found that there were several spots where the wood had rotted or turned green because of plants being too close to the house.
“Every time we take two step forward, we take two back. Chink, rotten wood, we knew it was gonna be bad, some places are real bad and some places are not,” said Waid.
The Looney house will take approximately another year to complete.
The house was first built in 1818 by John Looney and his son, Henry. Both were veterans of the War of 1812, and served under the command of Andrew Jackson.
The house went through two more owners until it was sold to the St. Clair Historical Society in 1942 to operate as a museum.