Alethea Club hears report on restoration of Boone-Murphy House at meeting

The Alethea Club met recently in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church. A light lunch was served by hostesses, Donna Chisom and Linda Minyard.

After a brief business meeting, Kar Lynn Roberts introduced Robert Tucker, director of the city Zoning and Inspection Department. In keeping with Alethea Club’s theme for the year, “This Ole House,” Tucker discussed the rehabilitation of the Boone-Murphy House at 714 W. Fourth Ave.

The Boone-Murphy House was built in 1860 and was originally located and West Second and Beech. In 1863 it served as the headquarters and home for Union Army General Powell Clayton during its occupation of Pine Bluff during the Civil War. In 1974 it was relocated to its present location by the Heckatoo Heritage Foundation.

The city began work on the house in 2012 using community development funding. After cleaning up the property, cutting grass and removing vines from the structure, a grant was applied for from the state and funding received for a structural assessment of the building by Aaron Ruby, a North Little Rock preservation architect. His report described the current condition of the building and provided guidance for the repair and rehabilitation of the structure.

First, all rotten wood was removed and the house raised in order to install a better foundation and ventilation space beneath. A low spot under the house where water had been collecting was filled. Floors and roof of the bathroom and kitchen additions, which were added sometime in the 1920s or 1930s, were replaced and a new brick skirt wall around the foundation was installed. Damaged sheet rock was removed from the interior and new electrical and plumbing systems were installed. A new HVAC system, as well as a new water heater, were added. When complete, new sheet rock was placed throughout the house. The kitchen and bathrooms were completely refurbished and the structure was repainted inside and out. New sidewalks to access the structure were added, as well as an ADA ramp to access the house through the kitchen in the rear. New flooring was installed in the kitchen/dining room area and bathroom. To complete the renovation of the house and grounds, exterior porch lights and landscaping were added.

A grant was applied for and received from the Arkansas State Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission to provide a historical marker which will be placed in front of the house. When finished, the Boone-Murphy House will serve as the headquarters for the Pine Bluff Historic Commission, which will hold its monthly meetings there. It will also be available for tours and use by civic clubs for small gatherings.