The house dates back to 1830, when a two-room, single story cabin was constructed on the site as a home for the owner of the grist mill. The fireplaces used then, are still in the house, along with the original stonework and mantles, although the fireplaces throughout the house have been modified over the years to enable them to burn the more efficient coal. The window glass in this part of the house is “Crown Glass”- made by a glass blowing technique. There is a unique pass-through “window” in the kitchen which was used to feed the miller’s crew outside the house, and perhaps slaves working on the plantation.
The first addition to the house was completed in 1845, which more than doubled the size of the house. It consisted of two rooms- upstairs, with an outside stairway, and a downstairs room, which today is the dining room. The upstairs room, called the “traveler’s room” served to house the numerous travelers on the road, and had no access from the interior portions of the house. Today, visitors may examine this room via a narrow, winding stairway with its well-worn stair treads, and 19th century “intrusion alarm”.
The final addition to the house was in 1860, just prior to the Civil War. By this time, the 1200 acre plantation had prospered to the point where this was to become one of the finest homes in this part of the country. The plantation produced corn, wheat, cotton, hemp, and livestock- principally cows and pigs.
In 1861, when the Civil War came to Kentucky, Confederate General Felix K. Zollicoffer brought 7000 troops from Tennessee into Mill Springs. The soldiers camped on 9 acres behind the house, while the General took the house as his headquarters, with the approval of its owners- Thompson Brown and his wife, Elizabeth. There is an interesting anecdote about “Lizzie”, as she was known, who felt sorry for a rebel soldier walking guard duty in the rain outside the house. Lizzie invited him inside to get warm, while she took his musket and walked guard duty in his place. She was 7 months pregnant at the time. After the Battle of Mill Springs, the house served as a temporary hospital for the Confederate wounded. There is a theory that the dark brown spots on the stairway are actually blood stains. After General Zollicoffer was killed, and the rebel troops were driven out of Mill Springs, the house became the headquarters for the victorious Union General, George H. Thomas.
Later during the war, a 6-pound cannon ball was fired through the house, causing some interior damage to walls and a door, and leaving a “mystery” as to how and when it occurred. Today, the holes in the house can still be seen, and the cannon ball is on display in the information center.
After the Civil War, Brown’s business suffered, partially due to his stance supporting the secession, and sold his house and business to his brother-in-law, Lloyd Lanier. The house remained in the Lanier family until well into the 20th century.
Today, the house and grounds are owned and maintained by the Mill Springs Battlefield Association, and are available for guided tours and special event rentals.