A passion for restoration

By Ashley Goodman | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Photo by Phil Sunkel

See photos and video of the Darnold’s here.

Elaine and Duke Darnold aren’t just building contractors in St. Augustine — they are salvage experts. Recently they began their first Flagler College project with the restoration of the exterior and windows of historic Wiley Hall, home to the Registrar and faculty offices.

“It is an honor to work with the college administration and staff on such a national treasure,” Elaine Darnold said.

The Darnold’s are based in St. Augustine and specialize in new construction and the restoration of historic buildings. Together, they have been in business since 1992. Elaine chose the oldest city as her prime location because she loved visiting St. Augustine as a child.

“I find living in St. Augustine a fantasy come true,” said Elaine Darnold.

Their latest project includes repairing all the windows, replacing broken glass and window parts, glazing the glass and fixing deteriorated wood of Wiley Hall.

When architectural details are missing or beyond repair, the Darnold’s duplicate the trim elements in their wood shop.

“A unique aspect of Wiley Hall is that all the exterior columns, windows and trim are red cyprus, maybe a feature unique to Flagler construction? Most of the houses in St. Augustine were built from yellow pine,” said Duke Darnold.

Elaine Darnold has never lived in a new house. Her passion for older buildings began when she was a little girl growing up in a historic neighborhood in Athens, Ga. From an early age, she knew that restoring older houses was her calling.

Before making construction a professional career, she worked as a project coordinator for a large commercial company in North Florida.

“The construction business knowledge I acquired at these two companies gave me many of the tools needed to survive in such a tough industry,” she said.

Her husband works along side with her and found restoration through construction. He started building houses in Norfolk, Va., then moved to Jacksonville where he later met Elaine on a blind date in 1986.

Together the Darnold’s restored many homes in St. Augustine including the Horruytiner-Bessey house and have worked on projects with the Casa Monica Hotel. They also have been working with the Lightner Museum for 14 years and restored several rooms under museum director Robert Harper.

The Darnold’s plan to continue to work on preserving historic properties. They also want to educate others on the importance of saving the features and elements of properties, which are often demolished to make way for more energy-efficient housing. They believe that this can be achieved within a well planned preservation project.

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