Brenda and Mike Munden’s home has been Party Central of late. Last weekend, the couple’s son, Eric, got married in the backyard. In a couple of weeks, Mike will entertain his newspaper photography buddies poolside.
This coming weekend, however, the Mundens are throwing a birthday bash that’s been two centuries in the making. The guest of honor is the house itself, and everyone is invited.
From 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 18, the Mundens will hold an open house to celebrate the 200th year since the oldest part of their home was built. The big brick place sits at 4790 State Rte. 142, on “the old S curve” halfway between London and West Jefferson.
The tours will start in the driveway, facing the side of the house where the seam in the brick is clearly visible—where “really old” meets “really, really old,” as in the circa-1875 addition that faces the road and the original 1807 structure that’s sandwiched between additions.
The entire house, which includes 10 rooms and four bathrooms, will be open for visitors’ perusal. Dulcimer players from Springfield will fill the house with mellow music. On the back porch, members of the Madison County Historical Society will put on a quilting demonstration and display tools related to early textiles.
The Mundens will provide guests with handouts detailing the home’s history and will display photographs of the renovations they’ve made since moving in on Aug. 8, 1981. Also on display will be artifacts they’ve come across during renovations, including old mail and an invitation to an early West Jefferson High School graduation ceremony, both found behind the fireplace mantle in the kitchen.
As for why they’re opening their home to the public for this milestone, Mike said, “I’m sure some people who pass by here all the time would like to come in and see what the old house is all about.”
Taking On History
That’s exactly the kind of curiosity that led Brenda and Mike to purchase the place 26 years ago, much to the dismay of relatives.
“The first time family members came out and saw it, they tried to talk us out of it,” said Mike.
The Mundens had been living in a newly built home in Hilliard.
“But it was all done. We were bored. We wanted a challenge,” Mike explained.
That’s exactly what they got, in the form of crumbling bricks, loose mortar, paint-thirsty trim and a home low on closets, bathrooms and all else that a couple with four boys needs.
“We didn’t understand the extent of what we were getting into, but we were young enough and strong enough to try it,” Mike said.
The Mundens are reverent of the home’s age, and they have outfitted it as such. They’ve reclaimed light fixtures, a claw-foot tub, a pull-chain toilet, door hardware and more from other old houses. They’ve left the home’s woodwork intact, from the plain straight boards in the 1807 structure to the fancier trim in the Civil War-era part of the house. They’ve left in wavy glass windows and unique door latches.
“Nothing in this house was bought from Lowe’s or Home Depot,” Brenda said.
The Home’s Origins
The desire to preserve the home’s historical nature stemmed from research the couple conducted early on in an attempt to get the house on the National Register of Historic Places.
Brenda got a good start on digging up the past before motherhood took center stage. With the children grown and a possible milestone approaching, she and Mike returned to their research last year.
With help from history buffs, J.A. Caldwell’s 1875 Atlas of Madison County, and Chester E. Bryan’s 1915 “History of Madison County,” the Mundens believe they have pieced together enough information to confirm their home’s date of origin.
“We think the land was given to General Duncan McArthur for his services in the Revolutionary War,” Brenda said.
McArthur, an absentee landowner, hired Jacob and Charles Ewing to survey the land, which later was sold to the John McDonald family.
The following passage from the 1915 history book refers to what the Mundens have deduced is their property and home, based on landmark clues:
“The McDonald home is situated on the West Jefferson pike, five miles east of London, in Deer Creek township. The original John McDonald of Madison County, who may be designated as John McDonald I, was reared in Scotland… He came to Ohio with his son, John II, from southern Tennessee, about 1800, and they settled in a log house, near which the railroad later passed. John McDonald I, who died in 1811, and his son, John II, are both buried in Glade cemetery. John McDonald II acquired four hundred acres of land, and in 1807 built a brick house that is still standing and still in a good state of preservation.”
The aforementioned cemetery and railroad tracks sit across from the Munden home. Glade Run flows through their property. The house sits on land in the southeast corner of Deer Creek Township.
Making Their Own Mark
The Aug. 18 open house won’t just celebrate the distant past, but also the life the current owners and their four children—Sean, Nicholas, Eric and Tyler—have enjoyed there.
“It’s been a great place to raise kids,” said Brenda. “There’s so much room for band rehearsals and pretend movie sets. Outside, they built forts in the woods and we’d have bonfires.”
The Mundens were happy to open their home as a gathering place for their sons’ friends. The extra work and supervision was worth knowing where their children were and what they were up to, Brenda said.
Mike and Brenda have enjoyed the house, too, and not just as parents.
Brenda tends a large flower and vegetable garden out back, often canning the produce she harvests. Mike tends to the inground pool and the screened-in back porch, additions the couple has contributed since moving in.
Their only disappointment with their home has everything to do with its location and nothing to do with its age.
“We’ve never had a single trick-or-treater come to our door in 26 years,” Mike laughed.
A small price to pay for a piece of history in the country.