An Early Stone House of Fayette County… to be Demolished?

The four-bay, two-story John Bell House at 460 Greendale Road is the latest addition to our Demolition Watch. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, this residence was built in the first decade of the 1800s and is recognized as one of the early stone buildings of central Kentucky. That status is noted in Lexington’s 2007 Comprehensive Plan (p. 302).

In Clay Lancaster’s 1955 writing on Rural Residence of Fayette County, the subject property was included in a short list of the early stone houses. Describing that list, Lancaster wrote that “they are not numerous.”

Stoneleigh. Carolyn Murray-Wooley, ca. 1983. University of Kentucky Libraries.

Bell, Poindexter, Bullock and Webb

John Bell, the son of Revolutionary War Captain David Bell, was born in Virginia in 1758. He had this property, known as Stoneleigh constructed and from here sold both hogs and cattle throughout the South according to the papers of Henry Clay.

Upon Mr. Bell’s death in 1835, the property was sold to former U.S. Senator and Mississippi Governor George Poindexter who had abandoned Mississippi to practice law here, in Kentucky. Eventually, Poindexter would return to Mississippi.

Perhaps one of the most interesting tales relating to Poindexter occurred when he was living in Washington, D.C., and retained the services of Richard Lawrence for the painting of his residence there. A few months after the paint had dried, Lawrence became the failed assassin of President Jackson. Jackson accused Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina as well as Poindexter of conspiring in the assassination attempt. Although there was no evidence connecting either senator to the crime, Mississippi failed to return Poindexter to the Senate. He immediately came to Kentucky.

The property passed through the hands of Winfield Bullock, too, before being acquired by John Webb in 1848. The property remained in the Webb family’s control until earlier this year.

The Road to Demolition?

The present concern involves the transfer of the 12.4 acres on which this historic property resides to BT-OH, LLC on June 29, 2016 for $1.15 million. BT-OH is a Delaware limited liability company formed in 1999 as a subsidiary of United Parcel Service, Inc. It is believed that the acreage is valuable to UPS not for its historic value, but instead as a parking lot. When the property had been listed for sale, the presence of a historic brick building was not noted. Signage seemed to indicate only acreage of developable property.

A demolition permit has yet been applied for as of the date of this writing, yet the property remains at risk. It is not located in an H-1 historic district, but a stone wall on the property should be enough to warrant a demolition hold to be placed on the application once it is sought.

Stay tuned for more details.

339 Jefferson Faces Wrecking Ball

339 Jefferson Street. Fayette PVA

With spring comes the blossoming buds of the flowers, but it also seems to bring the wrecking ball. On March 4, 2016, a demolition permit was sought for 339 Jefferson Street.

The old house, according to records of the Fayette County PVA, was built around 1890* and is another example of Lexington’s disappearing vernacular architecture. The property owner as of January 1 was Dixon Enterprises, LLC, but the demolition permit reveals that LFUCG Code Enforcement is the applicant/owner. Dixon owns a significant amount of the center of the block.

339 Jefferson Street, then numbered 181 Jefferson, on the 1901 Sanborn Map. UK Libraries.

The house appeared on the 1901 Sanborn Map, but was then numbered 181 Jefferson Street. As noted above, the PVA records indicate that the house was built in 1890. The 1896 Sanborn map, however, does not indicate that any structures were yet constructed on that portion of the western side of Jefferson Street. As such, I believe that 339 Jefferson was built somewhere between 1897 and 1901 … ca. 1900 – 2016.

On August 27, 1910, the Lexington Leader reported that “the funeral services over the body of Mrs. Nannie L. Harvey of 339 Jefferson street, who died Friday afternoon will be held Sunday afternoon, the burial taking place in the Lexington Cemetery.” She was survived by her husband, the sole beneficiary under her will which was probated in November of 1910.

The Jefferson Street corridor is currently one of Lexington’s most active and exciting districts with new development and investment filling the area. Demolition of vernacular structures like these shotguns I highlighted last year is often a side effect of a historic area’s popularity. Other alternatives, like infill and redevelopment of blighted areas like what is going on in NoLi, exist.

It remains to be seen what will occur on this site. But until we know, RIP 339 Jefferson (ca. 1900-2016). After nearly six score together, we hardly knew thee.