Falmouth Field Guide

19 Duke Street

19 Duke Street is a single-story house that sits mid-block between King and Queen Streets, directly across from the large townhouse at 20 Duke Street. Sadly, no deed information on the property has come to light, but treatment of the framing members, the presence of wire nails, the decorative treatment of the transoms and porch balustrade suggest a very late nineteenth-century or early twentieth-century construction date for the house. The house burned in 2008 soon after being recorded by UVA’s Falmouth Field School, leaving only the brick piers and masonry steps as evidence of its presence.

The porch extended all around the house, except in the southwestern corner where there was a small room, only accessible from the porch, which may be faced with reused clapboards from elsewhere in the house. A window opened from the back façade into the small patio room, suggesting the room was an addition. Wrap around porches are not common in Falmouth, but the sawn decorative balustrade is an example of Victorian produced woodwork observed all over town, including the Thomas Davidson House at 1 King Street.

Both front and back facades had a central doorway, highlighted like the window frames and the plate, by a different paint color. Paint was also used to suggest a sill at the lowest clapboard. The front double door had a transom, the back one did not. While the front façade had a symmetrical 5-bay system the back had asymmetrical openings – single door, double door, narrow casement window, single door, and blind window.

Raised four feet from the ground, the sills, joists, and floorboards were attached to the brick piers; the studs, posts, and down braces seemed to float on top of the platform. The roof was fully exposed to show a common rafter roof system in one unit over the entire interior of the house. Two collar beams connected the rafters that sit directly on top of the non-corner posts on the front and back of the house and a perpendicular collar beam ran out to the east and west sides of the roof. The ceiling rafters were joined to the plate by bird-mouth lap joints. Most studs, the plate, rafters, roofing elements, and posts were all beaded. The building exhibited only wire nails.

The house had two rooms in front and three behind. The front door led into the largest room, which occupied about 2/3 of the front half of the house. This room had two finished walls, opposite the double front door and windows and the partition wall that created the other front room. The smaller front room had only one finished wall, opposite the front windows. Based upon wall finishes, the large front room was the fanciest in the house, with the small front room close behind. From the street, passersby would have seen finished walls in both spaces. The back three rooms had exposed framing members, suggesting uses as private spaces for the family.