The oldest standing home in the city of Duluth
The building now known as the Payne-Corley House was built between 1870 and 1873 by David Little when Duluth was still known as “Howell’s Crossing.” Built as a farmhouse, the home received a date placard in 1873, the same year that the city took on its current name of Duluth, most likely indicating the year that the Little family made it their permanent home. Later, the home was sold to the Respess family who also maintained it as a private residence.
The home was purchased by Joseph Moor in 1904. Moor’s daughter, Emma, married local merchant Lee Payne. Emma and Lee built a house next door (which is now the Duluth Montessori School). Following Emma’s death in 1917, Lee Payne and the couple’s son and 2 daughters moved into what is now the Payne-Corley House. A few years later, Lee married Elizabeth Belle Moor, Emma’s sister, and together they raised the Payne children.
Frances Payne, the youngest of the Payne daughters, married Minor Corley. The newlyweds moved in with Lee Payne and took over ownership of the home when he remarried moved to Lawrenceville. The Corley’s had a daughter, Betsy, and lived here happily as one of Duluth’s most established families until Frances’ death in 1981.
Following his wife’s death, Minor Corley married his childhood friend, Winnie Guthrie Cain. Following Minor’s death, “Miss Winnie” continued to beautifully maintain the now-historic Payne-Corley House and delighted in opening the home for gatherings of friends, family, and neighbors.
When Miss Winnie was ready to leave the house, a group of five girlhood friends of Betsy Corley and Duluth natives, purchased the home and christened it the Payne-Corley House. They transformed the beloved family home into a unique special events facility. Jane (Lynott) Wilson, Judy (Mulkie) Burel, Annette (Knox) Summerour, Margie (Tonge) Ross and Emma (Bray) Deavours, known as the “Dreamkeepers,” were dedicated to maintaining the home’s historic charm while refurbishing it to meet the needs of a modern clientele. They successfully built the Payne-Corley House into one of the Southeast’s most celebrated event destinations.
In 2004, the daughter of one of the Dreamkeepers, Duluth native Krista Summerour Ganley, and her husband, Michael Ganley, brought their world-class experience in events management and gourmet cuisine as the Payne-Corley House’s new management team. In 2008, the Ganleys purchased the Payne-Corley House and launched a major facility expansion with upgrades across the property, providing enhanced services for weddings and special events. Leveraging their unique talent for Southern hospitality, the Ganleys also own and run downtown Duluth’s award-winning Park Café restaurant and have built both facilities into well-known community gathering places.