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William Henry Harrison's Grouseland

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Summary:
We are restoring elements of the roof, the exterior envelope and front porch, windows and doors, as well as the first floor's Council Chambers and dining room.

Built in 1804 and home to former United States president, William Henry Harrison, this Federal style building was given its unusual nick-name thanks to the local abundance of grouse, a plump game-bird. Grouseland is a two-story, red brick building with a high roof and dormer windows in the attic. The first floor includes the parlor, dining area, and family living space; the second floor houses bedrooms and servants' quarters.

Harrison was appointed governor of the Indiana territory in 1800 and moved to the local capital, Vincennes, to serve his term. Shortly after his arrival - and at great personal expense - he purchased 300 acres of local land and began the planning and construction of his sprawling, Federal style mansion. Contrasting the simpler wooden homes in Vincennes, Grouseland resembled the homes of Harrison's Virginian childhood.

Possibly the first brick building in Vincennes - maybe the entire Indiana territory - Grouseland was built exclusively by local labor with materials sourced nearby. It served as a focal point for the territory's governance and social life, including regular meetings with local American Indian tribe leaders and government legislators. Major land acquisitions were signed at Grouseland, including the Treaty of Grouseland, signed in the Council Chambers.

All but Harrison's eldest son would leave Grouseland in 1812, moving to North Bend, Ohio. During this time, Harrison served in the U.S. Army through the War of 1812, eventually joining the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, and finally be elected the 9th President of the United States in 1840. Grouseland would remain in the Harrison family's possession until 1850.

Grouseland was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. It is maintained by the Grouseland Foundation.

On behalf of the Grouseland Foundation, director Lisa Ice-Jones, and Mesik Cohen Wilson Baker architect Tom Burgess are chiefly responsible for inviting us onto this incredible project. Together, their research into the building's exterior fabric will ensure that it's restoration is faithful to history, transporting museum visitors to the early 19th century.

The Durable Restoration Company will be responsible for extensive restorative work, inside and outside the building.

The dining room and council chamber will have extensive restoration work to return them to their original construction.

The dining room will see its fireplace and mantlepiece restored, receive new trim, extensive plaster repair, new period correct wall treatment, new baseboard trim, and finally its original wood floor will be revealed and restored.

The council chamber will likewise have a restored fireplace and mantlepiece, new baseboard trim, repaired plaster, and new period correct wall treatment. Taken together, the main gathering areas of the first floor will be accurately - and durably - transformed.

Besides these dramatic interior repairs, the exterior envelope will receive its own extensive repairs:

  • Two windows that have been bricked up will be fully restored, the remaining windows will be replaced to original dimensions or restored where the original sashes remain, and all window shutters will be replaced.
  • All the exterior doors will be replaced with period correct alternatives.
  • Three chimneys and the dormers will will receive new copper flashing. The dormers will also have previous poor repairs removed and original details reproduced.
  • All the exterior woodwork will be painted, the portico balcony metal deck will also receive new paint.
  • The front and side porticos will be replicated in order to remove deteriorated lumber and address rising damp in the columns, with the addition of a new iron handrail at the front entry.
  • Deteriorated brick will be replaced with handmade, reclaimed brick and soiled areas cleaned. Areas of deteriorated mortar will be repointed using historically accurate mortar.

Although restoration isn't expected to conclude until June 30th, tours of the mansion are still available for anyone interested.

For an excellent, in-depth article on Grouseland and its on-going restoration, be sure to check out the Sun-Commercial's article. For fans of the comedy Parks and Recreation, Grouseland - and the Harrison campaign trail tradition - were featured prominently in the episode "William Henry Harrison."

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3 comments on “William Henry Harrison's Grouseland”

  1. The restoration is really moving along. We have become accustomed to Durable Restoration staff being around. We appreciate how interested in and respectful they are of Grouseland as they go about their work.