Two Boone County Homes Added to National Register

Two Boone County homes – one in Belleview and one in Burlington – were recently added  to the National Register of Historic Places. The Register is America’s official list of cultural places worthy of preservation and it is administered by the National Park Service. Nominations must be recommended by a state agency; in Kentucky, that is done by the Preservation Review Board and the Kentucky Heritage Council.

Locations are added to the National Register weekly and these two Boone County properties were listed at the end of February 2012.

Thomas Zane Roberts House and Workshop – Burlington, Ky.
Photo: Margo Warminski, Boone County Planning Commission
KY Heritage Council

The Thomas Zane Roberts House and Workshop (#12000042), located at 5074 Middle Creek Road in Burlington, is a picturesque farmhouse near the Ohio River. Its original owner and builder, Thomas Z. Roberts, was a master carpenter whose work shows in this frame two-and-one-half story temple-front dwelling that features an inset corner entry porch. Built in 1900, Roberts’ fine craftsmanship is evident in both his home and workshop – part of some 250 acres he once owned in the region.

It was here that Roberts – an inventor whose name is obscured by the more popularized Thomas Edison – spent time tinkering and inventing. Of all his creations, none were commercially adopted or patented (another reason why Edison is more renowned). Still, Roberts most notable creation was the Middle Creek Clock: a seven-foot tall walnut grandfather-style clock. Noted for its “intrinsic value as well as its extrinsic beauty,” the clock included a “Seth Thomas timepiece, a planetarium, a lunarium, and a dial showing the days of the week. … The planetarium contains an abbreviated model of the solar system, built to scale, and shows the earth’s position relative to Jupiter, Mars and Venus. “The orbit of each planet is precisely geared: while Venus gains one degree of arc in 1,656 days, Jupiter loses one degree of arc over 250 years.” The lunarium depicts the moon phase, and a dial indicates diurnal and nocturnal hours. The clock features an eight-day spring motor that sounds an alarm as it turns low and keeps ringing until attended.”


John J. Walton House – Belleview, Ky.
Photo: Margo Warminski, Boone County Planning Commission
KY Heritage Council

Belleview’s John J. Walton House (#12000041) is located at 5408 Belleview Road. It, along with its three outbuildings (a washhouse, a smokehouse and a corn crib) sit high atop a knoll about 1.5 miles east of the Ohio River.

Two stories tall, two bays wide and a room deep, the Walton House can clearly be seen as log construction given its impressive thirteen inch thick exterior walls. Built around 1840, the log pen construction was quite typical of the period’s regional architecture. In fact, the John J. Walton House is one of eight Boone County homes of log construction listed on the National Register.

It is worth noting that the three outbuildings described were not included in the nomination. Though described in the application, the buildings were not added to the National Register. They are, however, well-preserved examples of domestic outbuildings which are rarely in existence today thanks to obsolescence courtesy of rural electrification. It is rather peculiar that these outbuildings weren’t included, and I hope that this omission doesn’t lead toward lack of preservation.

NoD: Margaret Garner (Kentucky Chautaqua)

The Bluegrass Trust hosts a monthly brown bag lunch lecture series at the John Hunt Morgan House. In celebration of Black History Month, this month’s event was held at the Downtown Arts Center and was a live one-person Kentucky Chataqua show from the Kentucky Humanities Council

The Modern Medea, by Thomas Satterwhite Noble

Margaret Garner was a slave born in Boone County, Kentucky. Light-skinned, she was likely the daughter of her master – John P. Gaines (who was appointed by Pres. Zachary Taylor to be the governor of the Oregon Territory). When Gaines left her Oregon, he sold his farm, Maplewood (to which this post is geotagged), to his brother Archibald Gaines.

Archibald was a cruel master and ultimately, Margaret sought to escape with her three children. In the snowy winter of 1856, she escaped and crossed the frozen Ohio River, but was ultimately captured. Before her capture, however, she slit the throat of one of her children (she was stopped before she could kill the others) because she believed her children would be better in heaven than back in slavery. According to the story, Archibald was the father of each of her children and she didn’t want her daughters to be assaulted by their white masters.

Tried in Covington (rather than in Ohio), Garner was returned to slavery and sold down the river. The story of Margaret Garner was immediately well-known as it was publicized by both abolitionists (decrying the pathology of slavery) and pro-slavery forces (claiming that slaves were all subhuman). [*] The painting above, The Modern Medea, by Thomas Satterwhite Noble was inspired by Garner and was painted in 1867.  Her story was popularized again by Toni Morrison’s book, Beloved. Former UK professor research Garner, writing Modern Madea. There is also an opera about Garner which can be heard on NPR.

Boone County Courthouse – Burlington, Ky.

Burlington has a really nice historic downtown area, with a wealth of markers that provide a ton of information. All government buildings are in a little cluster downtown, including a HUGE new judicial center. The historic courthouse above was built in 1889. According to the historical marker, there has been a courthouse on this spot since 1799, and this is the third such building. A few interesting things about this building:
* It was built in the Renaissance Revival style for about $20,000
* Notice how small the cupola looks? Well, that’s because the original cupola was deemed to be too heavy for the building to support, and it was removed in 1898.
* There is a nearly identical courthouse in Bandera, Texas built a year after this one, but made of sandstone.
It felt great to head out of Burlington, because it meant that I got to leave the big roads behind and get back to the little country roads.