RIENZI - For more than a decade, Danny Dilworth and his wife, Sue Ann, have been lovingly restoring the house his great-great-grandfather built more than a century ago in the Parmitchie community.
Danny Dilworth, a retired district director for State Farm Insurance, and Sue Ann moved back to the Parmitchie community on Dec. 31, 1995, after almost 25 years in Tupelo. They had spent numerous weekends laboring on the restoration. His early retirement was a dream come true, he said, and an opportunity to move back into the family home place.
"I just absolutely love it," Sue Ann Dilworth said.
Thomas Francis Dilworth, whose family located in the Parmitchie community in the late 1830s, constructed the large, one-story, frame vernacular farmhouse in the late 1850s. It was later occupied by Union soldiers during the Civil War.
Because of its unusual design and detailed woodwork inside, it is more like a planter's home. It has twin front-facing gables, matching twin rear-facing gables and a side-gabled ell attached at a right angle.
The house is raised on brick piers with lap siding and plain cornerboard on the exterior. The facade is asymmetrical with the main entrance off a small, inset porch. Another porch off the bedroom on the east end was constructed in such a way that it is shaded in the summer and warmed by the sun in the winter.
The house has 14-foot ceilings, 10-foot-tall windows and 9-foot narrow double doors with side lights on the front and back of an enclosed breezeway, which the Dilworths plan to use as a dining hall and gathering place. A banquet-size, oak, drop-leaf table, which will serve as the dining table, was handcrafted by master carpenter Terry Carpenter of Corinth from wood salvaged from the old Bethel Church.
Wide, marbleized baseboards, marbleized mantels on four of the five fireplaces, wainscoting, fluting around windows and ornate woodwork further indicate this was an above-average farm house. The mantels are plain Doric pilaster with deep entablature.
The two closets in one of the six rooms is another indication that Thomas Francis Dilworth was a wealthy man. Older houses usually don't have closets because houses were taxed on the number of rooms and closets were considered rooms, Sue Ann Dilworth said. That's why so many people used armoires to store their clothing, she said. One of the closets in what will be a guest bedroom has been turned into a bathroom.
A clawfoot bathtub was re-enameled in a bathroom built years ago by enclosing the back porch, which is the only structural change in the house since it was built. Part of the porch is used as a laundry/utility room.
The central/dining hall divides the four larger rooms, with a parlor and guest bedroom on one side and an office/sitting room and kitchen on the other. The couple's bedroom is in the offset ell. Each room except the central hall has a fireplace.
Although the five fireplaces, vented by three chimneys, are safe to burn wood, there are no flues. "They will suck the hat off your head," Sue Ann Dilworth said. A central heat and air system provides a more efficient comfort zone.
Original heart-of-pine floors throughout the house are in excellent condition. Part of the wooden kitchen floor was painted a bright sunshine yellow and trimmed with flowers and leaves, handpainted to tie in with the beige, teal and burgundy color scheme. The kitchen has modern conveniences but retains the same feeling of warmth and heritage as the other rooms.
Listed on National Register
Parmitchie House, as Danny and Sue Ann refer to it, is listed on the State of Mississippi Department of Archives National Register of Historic Places as the Thomas Francis Dilworth Sr. House. To retain the listing, the Dilworths are maintaining architectural integrity during the renovation.
An unattached carriage house, which blends superbly with the original farm house, is being constructed on the west side. The two-story structure contains a garage and room upstairs for an office, kitchen, bathroom and storage.
Comparing a picture of the house before the Dilworths began the renovation with the almost-completed work today shows the extent of the family's endeavors.
"Some friends told me I was crazy but now they say they can see what my vision was," Danny Dilworth said.
The couple is lucky to have several old pictures of the house, which has helped in the restoration. One of the original owner's sons, Mark Dilworth, was a photographer, Sue Ann Dilworth said.
Although the hours have been long and the cost high, the Dilworths are thoroughly enjoying the project. When they finish the restoration project the end of September, the cost will probably equal that of a new house, Danny Dilworth said.
"I've already learned that you don't ever really complete it," he said. "It is a continuous thing."