Apr. 7—With its Mission Revival-style architecture and red-tiled roof, the historic Thistle Cottage stands out from the other homes along Cherry Street in Greenville.
Today, the house built in 1912 is operated by the Muhlenberg County Public Library as a gallery, museum and, most recently, genealogy center.
“This house was built by William Graham Duncan, he was a coal mine owner here in Muhlenberg County,” archivist Amie Waltrip said.
With its stained glass windows, quarter-sawn tiger oak paneling and built-in cherry bookcases, it was built by Duncan at a cost of $10,000 — or just under $300,000 in today’s money.
The name Thistle Cottage is a nod to the original owner’s ancestry.
“He was Scottish, and the thistle is the national flower of Scotland,” Waltrip said. “He was very proud of his heritage.”
Those approaching the house from the sidewalk on Cherry Street will pass between two short, brick columns. One bears the name Thistle Cottage, the other features Duncan’s initials and the build year.
The home was donated to the City of Greenville in 1986 by Duncan’s grandson, and it was opened in 1989 as the Duncan Center Museum and Art Gallery. The property was transferred to the Muhlenberg Public Library in 2013.
While the upstairs portion of the house is undergoing renovations, it is typically used as a gallery and museum space. The downstairs is the new home of the library’s history and genealogy collection, which was previously in a separate annex adjacent to the main branch in Greenville.
“This part of the building was just added on and completed, and we have moved everything over here and just opened two weeks ago for people to come in and research their history,” Waltrip said. “These materials were already accessible in a separate building next to the library, but we thought it would be better to have them all in one location.”
Kathy Sparks, a retired teacher, works two days a week at Thistle Cottage, helping guests research their family history.
“We are getting a new modern microfilm reader, and this elephant is about to be retired,” Sparks said.
The new reader, which allows people to view archival newspapers on film, should be arriving within a month.
“I am really excited,” she said.
Waltrip said there are some challenges that come with operating out of a 112-year-old space.
“We have to strike a balance between maintaining the historical integrity of the home and still providing modern services,” she said. “We have had to update things like the HVAC system and the plumbing, but we try to keep the original fixtures as much as possible, as long as they are functional.”
Waltrip said being able to work at such a beautiful house makes navigating those challenges worth the effort.
“The master bathroom is my favorite feature, it has 24-karat gold inlay in the tiles,” she said. “That was just for the homeowner, nobody else would have even seen that.”
Waltrip believes it is important for communities to preserve places like Thistle Cottage for future generations.
“It tells our community story,” Waltrip said. “It tells where we have been and how far we have come, but also that some things haven’t changed that much.”
Though renovations are underway in the original portion of Thistle Cottage, the new history and genealogy center is open by appointment. For more information, call 270-338-4760.