Scooba-Doobie-Doo. Which house are you?

Labor’s Cottage on the Estate of J.A. Minniece Esq. Scooba, Mississippi. Built c. 1877 Palliser, Palliser & Company, Architects.
Image: Plate #1 from Palliser’s Model Homes, 1878 edition.

Plate I.

COTTAGE AT SCOOBA, MISS.

In a Southern climate the requirements for houses, either great or small, are very different from what they are at the North.

Special attention must be paid to keeping cool in summer rather than warm in winter; therefore the rooms must be large and the ceilings high. Cellars are not among the requisites. Neither is it necessary in some parts to build solid foundations, there being no frost to get clear of; and in some instances houses are set on logs stood on the ground. In this case the frame is supported on brick piers, and a large open space is left under the floor, which is properly prepared so as to keep down damp.

It will be observed there is no Kitchen provided, the cooking being done in a small out-house provided for that purpose, so as to keep the heat out of the house as far as possible. It is, however, necessary at some seasons of the year to have a fire, and for this purpose a large open fire-place is provided in the Parlor. This fire-place is built of brick, with an arch turned in it, and the brick breast continued up; the brick being left exposed in the room, and in this fire-place it is intended to burn large logs on the hearth. The second story or loft is merely a lumber room and air space between the roof and rooms below.

The arrangement of the windows is one of the principal features in the design. The lower sashes are arranged to slide into the walls, and the transom sash to swing. In this way the whole of the windows can be opened instead of half, as is usually the case. The rooms are all well supplied with windows, and from their arrangement, if there is a breeze, a good draught will be obtained. The front Porch is arranged with a seat on each side, so that one may sit out of doors, and yet be in the shade, which is a very desirable feature. This Cottage was designed for the residence of a laborer on the estate of J. A. Minniece Esq., at Scooba, Miss., to be built of yellow pine throughout. Cost, about $500.

Some time in the late 1870’s Scooba, Mississippi lawyer J.A. Minniece needed to build a small house for a laborer on his estate.  Minniece sent off for mail order plans to the Bridgeport, Connecticut based firm of Palliser, Palliser & Company, Architects.  The firm’s principal partners were brothers George (1849-1903) and Charles (1854-post 1908).  George Palliser had a successful practice prior to establishing Palliser, Palliser & Company, Architects with his brother.  His work had been mostly in Connecticut and the surrounding area.  When Charles emigrated from England in 1877 the brothers successfully expanded George’s existing business to include mail order plans.  From this business they published several books over the years to help drum up potential clients. This first book Palliser’s Model Homes was published first 1878, with a second edition developed for 1883. The laborer’s cottage the Palliser brothers designed for J.A. Minniece was the first building featured in the book Palliser’s Model Homes.  It is the only building in the book that is from the deep south.   One of the interesting features of the structure that may have influenced its use in the book is the fact that the casement style windows slide into the walls, similar to pocket doors, to allow for maximum ventilation.

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I do not know where in the vicinity of Scooba this house might be or frankly if it was ever built.  To add to the confusion, I ran across an article in an October 1889 edition of the Indiana Democrat that features the Scooba house.  The image from the article shows the structure without a gable dormer being the only real change.  It’s possible that the image may reflect the cottage as built, or it might be an older image of an unfinished design that was used by an unknowing newspaper editor.  Any readers out there who are familiar with the area know of any building that might fit this bill?



Categories: Architectural Research, Historic Preservation

21 replies

  1. I would think that if one could locate the Palliser brothers’ archives and papers, that might resolve a good deal. I have seen no mention of them in a cursory internet search. However, the Art Insittute in Chicago a year or so ago did a “‘show” or exhibit about mail-order house plans that included the Pallisers. You might see if a curator there has a lead. http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/exhibitions/Ryerson/Design-Inspiration/5 Also, it is possible that the archives are located in Bridgeport or that the local historical society there might be able to help.

    Another roundabout route: Chris DiMattei runs a “Do I live in a George F Barber” on-line resource for this old house. http://www.myoldhouseonline.com/forum/topics/do-you-live-in-a-george-f?commentId=2114602%3AComment%3A58836&xg_source=activity If you e-mail him, he might be able to steer you towards an enthusiast for Pallisers that might know. crdimattei@verizon.net

    Good luck!

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  2. Minniece was a correspondent about cotton production in the 1880 report. See http://www.archive.org/stream/reportoncottonp00goog/reportoncottonp00goog_djvu.txt Therefore I suspect that his estate was a plantation. You might see if the county there has records of his property-owning. The local genalogy society might help as well.

    I note that a generation or so later there was an attorney with the same last name in Meridian. I don’t know if there is a family descendant who might help.

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    • USM has two different Oral Histories with the Meridian attorney, Thomas Minniece. He mentions his grandfather living in the area of Scooba but does not mention his name in either interview. Its likely they were kin, but I dont know about direct lineage.

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  3. This is really interesting. For those who want to see the pages from Palliser and don’t have it at hand here’s the page from the house in Scooba.

    Poking elsewhere around the internet, I see signs that there were more than one generation of Minniece’s in Kemper County, and a mention of an oral history that made me think there may be family members still in the area. I wonder if a call to the local public library might provide some answers.

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    • Now I am emboldened to go down a tangent. In a book found on-line, http://www.archive.org/stream/chisolmmassacrep00well/chisolmmassacrep00well_djvu.txt , I had found reference to a J A Minniece there in Kemper County. If someone finds out about Minniece as to architecture and happens to find out what his role was as to Chisholm and the mob, I’ll be glad to be enlightened. I had thought the reference to Minniece meant the man was a sympathizer to Chisholm, or to Chisholm’s brother at least, but the writing is so confusing about such tangled events I am not sure.

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  4. I had sent this posting off to a friend this morning with a query whether he could suggest anything. I don’t think anything here is new, but it sets out the paramaters pretty well.

    It seems that the objective of the forum discussion is to identify the location of this cottage and see if it still stands or not. First would be to identify the exact residential location of the lawyer who ordered the plans during the late 1870’s. I would think the local genealogical society might have that information. Assuming the location could be determined, is there still any structure standing there which might resemble the plan design? If not, then locals could be asked if they remembered any such dwelling in this location?

    We must keep in mind that minor houses from the 1870’s are pretty rare nowadays. Fire, severe weather, termites, and abandonment/neglect have all contributed to these minor houses being lost to time. Grand mansions usually received better upkeep and attention; small workers cottages received far less attention and care. Even if you can pinpoint the original location (doubtful you would find a Sanborn Fire Map for this location) don’t be surprised if all traces of the small house are now gone.

    If a planbook publisher identifies the location of a specific design (as George Barber often did) then it was almost certainly built. Some things here are intriguing…why would a Mississippi lawyer want a planbook design from a Connecticut mail order firm during the last year of Reconstruction in the South? (1877) Such a simple 3 or 4 room cottages could have been easily designed and built by a local carpenter-builder using vernacular local styles and traditional building methods. There must have been a compelling reason to use “official” plans…maybe as part of a lawsuit settlement? Compensation of some kind? Maybe the lawyer had some connection with Connecticut? Local county deed and tax records might show something.

    Last, the “formula” used by most late 19th century planbook architects was to start with minor low-cost dwellings then make the bulk of the plans marketed for the middle-class and finally end with a few fancy mansion designs. Thus, you might begin with a simple cottage for $800 and end the planbook with a 12 room mansion costing $10,000 or more. Good luck on finding this elusive cottage or any modern trace of it.

    For what it is worth, Mr. Rosell, I send this on to you.

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  5. I believe the only topic we have not touched on is the difference between the elevation shown in the second, third, and fourth editions(the only editions I have) of Palliser’s Model Homes and the elevation shown in the Oct. 1889 edition of the Indiana Democrat.

    In the preface of the second edition the brothers state that in the first edition “the designs were very poorly given, on account of their being wood-cuts(prints).” With the image printed in the newspaper resembling a wood cut, I am inclined to think that it is from the first edition.

    With the wood cut elevation rendering showing the building with out a gable dormer, it makes me inclined to think the house was built with out a dormer and that the gable was an improvement upon the original design the architect added only in later editions of the book.

    I will admit I made a major assumption, that being the building was built circa 1877. It could have been designed and built anytime between when George Palliser emigrated to America in 1868 and spring of 1878 when the book was first published. Remember that Longwood, probably Mississippi’s most famous mail order design, was first published in 1852 but did not begin construction until 1859.

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    • Mr. Rosell, I admire your thoroughness, but I think your major assumption as you term it was probably correct. True, in the nature of pattern-books some design of some very modest building must be used for the first design and no doubt those are harder commissions to have and secure. Still, it would have taken almost foolhardiness to use as an example something from a distant state built years before: complaints could have arisen, some local scandal could have occurred over the intervening years, etc. So, I suspect it was built about 1877. My friend was not indicating skepticism, but thought that given the date some explanation might be laying about in some record or another that would help you.

      You may be correct about the gable and the various sets of plates and editions. Indeed, you sound correct. The only caution I would give is that perhaps the Minniece family has the dormer added when the home was built (perhaps by consultation back with the architects), and then the dormer was in turn added to the later editions.

      Anyway, what a fascinating subject. Thanks.

      Years ago I suppose a local school might have taken on the project of finding out about the house, etc., as a sort of history and English writing project. Schools have so much to do nowadays, but if the library and the local history organization and the genealogical society etc. are all unavailing, you might keep the local school in mind. Still, setting up such projects, getting the principal/superintendent’s permission, can take a year under the best of circumstances. I think the matter you have raised is that fascinating it deserves real study!

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  6. Although Mr. Wintory has just added to the stock pile of information that is accumulating, I thought I might add some pure speculation. Whatever one assumes about the construction date and the dormer (a tip of the hat to Mr. Rosell for those thoughts), what strikes one is that this is one heckuva cottage, for those times, for a “laborer”. Yet there is no reference to this being intended for an overseer or some special artisian who could only be lured there by special accomodation.

    What might have been possible? Admittedly all this is speculation upon the thinnest of reeds, but if one were during the Reconstruction or immediate post-Reconstruction era determined to offer decent (for the times) living quarters to the freedmen working on shares, then contacting a Northern architect might make sense. AFter all, simply telling someone locally thereafter to follow a plan is easier than explaining, justifying and consulting on a design to determine what to build for such purposes, And that the Pallisers were English might have been an additional attraction — there were schemes of decent workmen homes and the like bruited about in England. Finally, the cost of getting plans for such a simple home might not have seemed exorbitant — if one was amortizing that cost mentally over a number of projected homes. Thus, one possibity that strikes me is that Mr. Rosell may have presented to the world a lost fragment of social and building planning. Again, all this is speculation on the slightest of “evidence” indeed, but we do know that Minniece was a “progressive” agriculturalist, in terms of practices of agriculture, given his correspondence in that one 1880 book.

    Are there alternative speculations equally plausible? Of course, there are. Minniece could have been one of those hopeful of recruiting Northerners or others to come to the rural South. Too, almost always architecture and building in those days represented family considerations — he may have intended some relative to come and live on the “estate” while heading up the work or the like. Some shyness at investing his projected relative with any authority would account for using the term laborer. These or other possibilities come to mind.

    However, all these possibilities merely indicate to me that if genealogical or other source material can shed a light on this cottage, Mr. Rosell may have presented something here of a camera obscura view of a slice of life and architecture at that time in Mississippi.

    Well done Mr. Rosell! And now, Mr. Wintory, I will restrain my speculations so that you have more room for facts. What you have done counts for something in reality and I am merely daydreaming.

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  7. In the 1880 Census, J. A. Minniece is “J. A. Maniece.” He is 69 years old, born in Ireland and listed as “Farming.” He is living with his 48 yo wife, Alma (b. GA) and 10 yo daughter, Mattie (b. MS). Also living with the family are two black servants: Jemma Thompson, 28, b. MS and Mary Sygman, 13, b. GA.

    Two other families appear to be in the household: Alice Westbrook, 39 yo, white woman, and her two sons, ages 15 & 13; and W. L. Shelton, a white merchant, 33 yo and his 28 yo wife, Ida.

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    • I will continue to speculate and guess that during Minniece journey to Mississippi from Ireland, he spent some time in Connecticut.

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      • Ah, you both are doing fascinating work. However, just what Minniece/Maniece wanted with a separate laborers’ house becomes less and less clear. Of course, he may have had other land elsewhere. Too, he was growing older — nearing the proverbial three score and 10 — and was preparing, perhaps, for others to run his affairs. Very interesting.

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      • Maybe, but according to Reiff, “As early as 1876, however, George Palliser, ‘Architect,’ had achieved great success and had published his first book of plans, _Palliser’s Model Homes for the People_. It is most revealing of his working methods and the development of not just ‘plans by mail,’ but now ‘architectural design by mail.'” (pg 97).

        Reiff is saying the first book was published in 1876 and then revised in 1878. Does the plan for Minniece show up in the 1876 edition or just the 1878? Reiff states, “The revised 1878 version of _Palliser’s Model Homes) was really an entirely new book; none of the old designwas repeated. The new edition contained illustrations for eighteen houses and other buildings…” (pg 99).

        It looks like Minniece was in Sumter County Alabama in 1850; that’s before Palliser comes to America (1868) and before he moves to Bridgeport in 1873. I think it is more likely that Minniece had the 1876 version in hand and requested plans thru the mail and those plans ended up in the 1878 revision.

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        • “I think it is more likely that Minniece had the 1876 version in hand and requested plans thru the mail and those plans ended up in the 1878 revision.”

          That sounds very likely to me.

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    • Seems like maybe he just wanted to build another house to have a place to get away from all those people in his first house! :-)

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  8. I returned home after a very long, fatiguing day dealing with various phantom “legal issues” that were by the end of the day determined to be no more than inventions out of whole cloth. How good and refreshing it is to find all of you carefully going over the matter even more thoroughly and doing so good-naturedly and with high spirits and wit! Palliser and Minniece are serving the purposes of civilization the last few days, whatever the intent of the designs at the (particular) time. Thanks from a fascinated reader.

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