Historic Hickman House rehabilitation completed

Thursday, October 15, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 12:07 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 16, 2009
Built in 1819, the Thomas Hickman House in New Franklin stands almost ready for public tours on Thursday. The house is one of Missouri's oldest intact brick houses and will open to the public on Saturday during the seventh annual Missouri Chestnut Roast.

COLUMBIA — An autumn wreath is the finishing touch on the front door of the Hickman House.

After a two-year rehabilitation project at the MU Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center, the Hickman House is restored and will be dedicated at the seventh annual Missouri Chestnut Roast.

If you go

Dedication of Hickman House — 9 a.m.

Chestnut Roast — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: MU Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center in New Franklin

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But the rehabilitation process could give Ray Glendening, the research center's farm manager, another job title: detective. The mystery to be solved isn't where the house came from but how it looked in its beginnings in the early 1800s.

The windows have been given a modern look. Porches and doors have been added, and the house was painted white.

"We had to change all of these windows, but you see those bricks at the top, those were a good indicator of how big the original windows were," Glendening said.

In the 1930s, the windows were filled in and made smaller. Now, the windows are large, and the glass, dated by its warped texture, was salvaged from an 1870 courthouse in California, Mo.  

Thomas Hickman, the home's builder, arrived in the Boone County area in 1816 and owned a mercantile store in Old Franklin; the house showcases the luxury of a business owner in that era.

A new-house smell of fresh paint and lingering sawdust greets visitors at the door. But unlike new homes, this four-room house has nearly 200 years of history in its walls.

"These doors were like a jigsaw puzzle to put in, the locks needed to be matched up and this attic door was something else to figure out, " said Gary Dorr, manager of Five Oaks Associates, which was the contractor for the rehab project.

The attic door held its own mystery. It locked from the outside only, leaving any inhabitants, including the Hickman's nine slaves, locked inside.

In the dining room, a glass window placed in the floor showcases two logs.

"These logs are the original foundation of this house; there is even some bark left on them," Glendening said, pointing out the ax marks down the log.

Cords plugged into power tools litter the hardwood floors, which are a mixture of walnut, elm and ash trees.

Walnut makes up the frame of the home, something Dorr said was a "rare" choice in homebuilding. The wood is more expensive, but it also is dense, making it resistant to bugs and water retention.

The Hickman House was put on the National Register of Historic Places in July 2006 and is one of the state's oldest intact brick houses.

"It's a good thing we started when we did because it was going pretty fast," Glendening said.

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