Regional Look to Blue Grass Trust’s 11 Endangered List

Photographs of Select Sites on the Blue Grass Trust’s Eleven in Their Eleventh Hour List

Each year, the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation assembles a list of historic central Kentucky properties which are threatened. For the 2015 edition of the “Eleven in Their Eleventh Hour” list, the BGT has looked primarily beyond Fayette County to sites across 11 central Kentucky counties.

The list of counties largely resembles those included in the 2006 World Monument Fund’s designation of the Inner Bluegrass Region. The Blue Grass Trust included Madison County on its “11 Endangered List” while omitting Anderson County. All Kentucky counties, however, have “at risk” structures and deserve the attention of preservationists.

The BGT’s list is a great step toward recognizing that preservation can and should occur throughout Kentucky and not only in our urban cores. The 14 structures within the 11 counties also reflect that theme.

According to the BGT, “the list highlights endangered properties and how their situations speak to larger preservation issues in the Bluegrass. The goal of the list is to create a progressive dialogue that moves toward positive long-term solutions. The criteria used for selecting the properties include historic significance, lack of protection from demolition, condition of structure, or architectural significance.”

The sites are listed below.

Bourbon County – Cedar Grove & John T. Redmon House 

Both Cedar Grove and the Redmon House are architecturally significant houses from the early 19th century. The circa 1818 John & John T. Redmon House has a steep roof more often found in Virginia than Kentucky and has lost its original one-story wings. Though both buildings are vacant, they have undergone partial renovations recently and the BGT believes these structures could be still restored.

Boyle County – Citizens National Bank & Dr. Polk House

Mostly empty for two-plus years, the Citizens National Bank building at 305 West Main Street in Danville was built in 1865 with a double storefront that housed First National Bank of Danville and a drug store. Bank-owned and listed for sale, a demolition (or partial demolition) of this structure could affect adjacent structures with which the building shares walls.  Dr. Polk House at 331 South Buell Street in Perryville sits across from Merchants’ Row and is arguably the historic landmark most in need of restoration in the downtown. Built in 1830 as a simple Greek Revival house with two chimneys and two front doors, the structure was purchased by Dr. Polk in 1850. A graduate of Transylvania University, he was the primary caretaker of wounded from the Battle of Perryville and his 1867 autobiography details the gruesome battlefield.

Dr. Polk House in Perryville, Kentucky. Photo courtesy of the BGT.

Clark County – Indian Old Fields 

Indian Old Fields in Clark County was the location of Eskippakithiki, the last known Native American town in what became Kentucky. Located on Lewis Evans’ 1755 map of Middle British Colonies, this highly important site was significantly impacted during construction of a new interchange (which opened September 2014) for the Mountain Parkway crossing KY 974 near the center of the Indian Old Fields.

The Kentucky Heritage Council noted in 2010 that “’Indian Old Fields,’ is a historic and prehistoric archaeological district of profound importance,” with 50 significant prehistoric archaeological sites identified within 2 kilometers of the interchange. These sites cover the Archaic Period (8000-1000 BC), Woodland Period (1000 B.C. -1000 AD) and Adena Period (1000-1750 AD), with several listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These include villages, Indian fort earthworks, mounds, sacred circles and stone graves. The site also has substantial ties to the famous Shawnee Chief Cathecassa or Black Hoof, Daniel Boone, and trader John Finley.

With the new $8.5 million dollar interchange now open, there are significant concerns that these sites with be under threat from pressure to further develop the area.

Fayette County – Modern Structures 

The Blue Grass Trust’s 2014 “Eleven in Their Eleventh Hour” focused on the historic resources at the University of Kentucky. Many of those included on the list (and most of those demolished) were Modern buildings designed by locally renowned architect Ernst Johnson. Research into Johnson’s work by the BGT and others such as architects Sarah House Tate and Dr. Robert Kelley was joined with education and advocacy programming focused on his architecture and legacy as a master of Modernism. This research and programming led to other efforts by the Blue Grass Trust, namely working to educate the public on the historic value of mid-century architecture.

In our continued education and advocacy effort surrounding these structures, the Blue Grass Trust lists Fayette County’s mid-century Modern architecture as endangered. Often viewed as not old enough or not part of the traditional early fabric of Lexington and surrounding areas, the Modern buildings of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s are being substantially and unrecognizably altered or demolished. It is important to recognize that buildings 50 years of age are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, a length of time deemed appropriate by the authors of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 for reflection on an era’s importance. Read more from the Kaintuckeean’s earlier post on the People’s Bank branch on South Broadway.

People’s Bank in Lexington. Photo by Rachel Alexander.

Franklin County – Old YMCA & Blanton-Crutcher Farm

Both the Old YMCA in downtown Frankfort faces potential demolition and the Blanton-Crutcher Farm in Jett are slowly deteriorating from neglect and both structures are worth saving. The 1911 Old YMCA at 104 Bridge Street in Frankfort, designed in the Beaux Arts style by a a Frankfort architect, was a state-of-the-art facility featuring a gymnasium, indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, meeting rooms and guest quarters. While a local developer is hoping to transform it into a boutique hotel, there is also a push by the city of Frankfort to demolish this structure. If saved, this could be a transformative project in our capital city. 

The Blanton-Crutcher Farm in Jett includes an architecturally and historically significant circa 1796 house built by Carter Blanton, a prominent member of the Jett farming community. In 1831, Blanton sold the farm to his nephew, Richard Crutcher, the son of Reverend Isaac Crutcher and Blanton’s sister, Nancy Blanton Crutcher. The 1974 National Register nomination for the farm notes: “The Crutchers were excellent farmers. Three generations of the family farmed the land and made improvements on the house until 1919 when the property was sold. It has remained a working farm with a large farmhouse, at its center, that has evolved over 180 years of active occupation.” In the 1880s, Washington Crutcher significantly increased the size of the house, turning it into the Victorian house that stands today (although the porches were removed due to deterioration and other modern features have been added).

Harrison County – The Handy House aka Ridgeway 

The Handy House, also known as Ridgeway, is located on US 62 in Cynthiana, KY. The nearly 200-year-old house was built in 1817 by Colonel William Brown, a United States Congressman and War of 1812 veteran. The farm and Federal-style house were also owned by Dr. Joel Frazer, namesake of Camp Frazer, a Union camp during the American Civil War. In the 1880s, the house underwent significant renovations by W. T. Handy, the owner from 1883-1916 and for whom the house remains named.

The Handy House checks almost every box when it comes to saving a structure: an architecturally and historically important house in good enough shape to rehabilitate, a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, qualification for the Kentucky Historic Preservation Tax Credit, and a group, the Harrison County Heritage Council and a descendant of the original owner, willing to take on the project. Unfortunately, the Handy House is jointly owned between the city and the county. County magistrates voted to tear it down, and the city opted not to vote on it with the hopes that the new council will come to a deal with the Harrison County Heritage Council, which has offered to purchase and restore the house as a community center. Read more from the Kaintuckeean’s earlier post on Ridgeway.

Jessamine County – Court Row 

Completed in 1881, Nicholasville’s Court Row is located right next to the Jessamine County Courthouse. Italianate in design and largely unchanged exterior-wise, Court Row is one of the most significant and substantial structures in downtown Nicholasville.

In a broad context, the listing of Court Row is a comment on the status of all the historic resources in downtown Nicholasville. Several threats exist that are culminating in drastic changes to the fabric of the town. Foremost, Nicholasville failed in 2013 to pass its first historic district, an overlay that would have encompassed the majority of the downtown and helped to regulate demolition and development. Then, within the past month, two historic structures were demolished, including the Lady Sterling House, an 1804 log cabin very close to the urban core. Additionally, Nicholasville is on the ‘short list’ for a new judicial center, the location of which has yet to be determined but will almost certainly have an effect on the downtown. Together, these threats present the potential for the loss of significant portions of Nicholasville’s charming downtown.

Madison County – Downtown Richmond 

Preservation has had a lot positive movement in Richmond. The Madison County Historical Society is active; the beautiful Irvinton House Museum is city-owned and the location of the Richmond Visitor’s Center; and the downtown contains a local historic district. Like most local historic districts (also known as H-1 overlays), though, the Downtown Richmond Historic District protects historic buildings and sites that are privately owned. That means that city- and county-owned sites are exempt from the H-1 regulations.

The potential damaging effects of this can already be seen. In February 2013, downtown Richmond lost the Miller House and the Old Creamery, two of its most historic buildings. Both were in the Downtown Richmond Historic District and on the National Register of Historic Places. Owned by the county, the buildings were demolished with the hopes of constructing a minimum-security prison on the site that would replicate the exterior façade of the Miller House, according to Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark. There are several other historic sites in the urban core that are owned by either the city or the county, leading to worry about the state of preservation in Richmond’s downtown.

Mercer County – Walnut Hall

Built circa 1850 by David W. Thompson, Walnut Hall is one of Mercer County’s grand Greek Revival houses. A successful planter and native of Mercer County, Thompson left the house and 287 acres of farmland to his daughter, Sue Helm, upon his death in 1865. In 1978, Walnut Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with two other important and similar Mercer County Greek Revival houses: Lynnwood (off KY Highway 33 near the border of Mercer and Boyle Counties) and Glenworth (off Buster Pike).

The James Harrod Trust has notified the Blue Grass Trust that the house may be under threat of demolition, as it is owned by a prominent Central Kentucky developer known to have bulldozed several other important historic buildings.

Scott County – Choctaw Indian Academy 

Located in Blue Springs, KY, off Route 227 near Stamping Ground, the Choctaw Indian Academy was created in 1818 on the farm of Colonel Richard M. Johnson, who served as Vice President of the United States under Martin Van Buren (1837–1841). The Academy was created using Federal funding and was intended to provide a traditional European-American education for Native Americans boys. (It was one of only two government schools operated by the Department of War – the other being West Point.) Originally consisting of five structures built prior to 1825, only one building – thought to be a dormitory – remains. By 1826, over 100 boys were attending the school, becoming well enough known to be visited by the Marquis de Lafayette in 1825. The school was relocated to White Sulphur Springs (also a farm owned by Colonel Johnson) in 1831. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Read more about the site from the Kaintuckeean’s earlier post on the Choctaw Indian Academy.

Remaining structure of Choctaw Indian Academy. Photo by Amy Palmer.

Woodford County – Versailles High School 

 Located on the corner of Maple Street and Lexington Pike in Versailles, the Versailles High School is a substantial structure built in 1928. The building operated as a high school for 35 years before becoming the Woodford County Junior High in 1963, operating as a middle school until being shuttered in 2005. After 77 years of continuous operation, the building has been empty for nearly 10 years.

With no known maintenance or preservation plan, concern exists that the historic Versailles High School will deteriorate from neglect and, ultimately, be demolished.

You can learn more about the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation on its website,

NoD: Versailles Presbyterian Church

Versailles Presbyterian Church - Versailles, Ky.
Interior of the Versailles (Ky.) Presbyterian Church

On Versailles’ Main Street, the red bricks of the Gothic revival-style Presbyterian Church surround beautiful stain glass windows. Its stately belltower lies on the north end of the church’s gabled roof.

Inside, the square sanctuary features a beautiful pipe organ and two-and-one-half aisles (the third being central to the church, but only extending midway from the rear).

Versailles Presbyterian Church - Versailles, Ky.
Versailles (Ky.) Presbyterian Church

The church’s origins are unclear, but the first Presbyterian pastor in the county was Reverend Adam Rankin who was called to the Glenn’s Creek Church, part of the Transylvania Presbytery, in 1786. In 1788, Woodford County was created from Virginia’s Fayette County. Fortunately, for this early church, Glenn’s Creek was not situated within Versailles as Virginia statute forbade a church from being situated within the limits of a county seat. These rules soon became moot, however, as Kentucky achieved statehood in 1792.

By 1794, not only was a Presbyterian Church operating in the county seat of Versailles — but it was holding services in the courthouse itself! Rev. John Poage Campbell, considered to be the first minister of Versailles Presbyterian Church, preached throughout the circuit and had certainly served in Versailles by the year 1811 when he also acted as chaplain of the state legislature.

The church, erected in 1854, preceded the existing structure on which ground was broken in 1877 with dedication Sunday following on July 28, 1878 by Reverend Gelon H. Rout. Once dedicated, the sanctuary was the largest room in the county and was utilized for a number of civic and community events.

The organ was from the Henry Pilcher & Sons Company of Louisville. Actually, the company originated in St. Louis in 1852, but located to Chicago during the Civil War. Surviving both the war and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the company returned south to Louisville in 1874. The organ, built in Louisville, was taken by train to Midway and from there to Versailles on horse cart. The walnut organ crates were even used in the construction of the church’s façade!

More pictures are available by clicking here.

Henry Pilcher’s Sons Organ Company
Historical Sketches of Kentucky,” p. 135.
John Poage Campbell
Versailles Presbyterian Church, “Our History

No Destination: St. Matthew AME

St. Matthew AME Church, Midway, Ky.

In historic Midway is the St. Matthews African Methodist-Episcopal Church. Its historic marker, unveiled in 2008, reads:

St. Matthew African Methodist Episcopal Church. Est. in 1860. Served as a recruitment office during Civil War. Lot was purchased May 9, 1854, for location of first church building. Rev. Moses Burks was 1st minister of the old frame church. In 1886, Rev. J. Frazier & members erected brick church that later burned with old frame church. Present church was built in 1892.

It is a beautiful, well-kept structure that congregants should be proud of. Unfortunately, with the exception of the marker I can find no history on the building or the congregation.

No Destination: Historic Midway

Midway, Kentucky

Midway, Kentucky is a bustling town in Woodford County. The land that would become Midway was purchased in 1835 by the Lexington & Ohio Railroad Company. Located “midway” between Lexington and Frankfort (and also “midway” between Versailles and Georgetown), the town was Kentucky’s first railroad down. Of course, its location as a great crossroads was already known from the importance of the nearby Offut-Cole Tavern. And a train still travels through the middle of town on Railroad Street (unlike LaGrange, the train doesn’t impede parallel traffic)

Historic Midway has so many stories, and it has many historic markers on its Railroad Street that shares those stories:

“Sue Mundy” Here, Marker 537:

Jerome Clarke, called Sue Mundy, one of Morgan’s Raiders, formed his own guerrilla band on Morgan’s death Sept. 1864. Clarke and band raided here November 1, 1864, killing Adam Harper. Four Confederate prisoners executed in reprisal by Union forces. On Feb. 2, 1865, Clarke returned with William Quantrill, another guerrilla leader, burned depot here and stole 15 horses.

 Edward Dudley Brown (1850-1906), Marker 2027:

This well known African American horse owner, trainer, developer, and jockey was born into slavery, 1850. Raised as a stable boy near Midway, he was nicknamed “Brown Dick” after the record-setting racehorse of that name. Brown was associated with great horses such as Asteroid, Ducat, and Kingfisher. Presented by City of Midway and the Ky. African American Heritage Commission.

(Reverse) Noted Horseman – “Brown Dick” worked with Kentucky Derby winners Baden Baden (1877), Ben Brush (1896), and Plaudit (1898). He died at a friend’s house in Louisville, May 1906, of tuberculosis and was returned to Midway for burial. He was inducted into National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame on August 8, 1984. Presented by City of Midway and the Ky. African American Heritage Commission. 

 Midway, Marker 1580

First Kentucky town established by a railroad. In 1831, Lexington and Ohio Railroad Co. began railroad between Lexington and Frankfort and first train reached midway point, 1833. John Francisco farm bought by L&O in 1835; town of Midway laid out by R. C. Hewitt, civil engineer for railroad. Many streets named for L&O officials. Midway incorporated, 1846, by Ky. legislature.

Morgan at Midway, Marker 516:

Taking 300 abandoned USA horses and mules at Versailles, Morgan’s Raiders came here July 15, 1862. Advised of troop train approach from Frankfort he had tracks torn up and howitzers set. Train warned and returned to Frankfort. Morgan took telegraph line and coaxed train at Lexington to come on but it turned back. He and his men reached Georgetown that evening.

Besides its fascinating history, Midway is also the home to several great restaurants and antique shops.

No Destination: Offut-Cole Tavern

The Offut-Cole Tavern is located at the corner of Old Frankfort Pike and US-62 in Midway. According to the historic marker, the log portion of the structure dates to the 1780s-1790s. Major John Lee, a founder and early leader of Woodford County, lived here and began its tradition as a tavern. Leased to John Kennedy and William Dailey, it grew in fame as a stagecoach stop (midway) along the toll road from Lexington to Frankfort.

A separate tavern located on Cole’s Road (now known as Leestown Road) was known as Cole’s Bad Inn. Owned by Richard Cole, Sr. and nicknamed “Little Sodom,” it can only be imagined what there occurred. English journalist Fortesque Cuming visited both Dailey’s Tavern and Little Sodom in 1807 as he traveled to and from Frankfort by Lexington. Cuming wrote:

Quitting Frankfort, we took Coles Road, a different route to that by which we had come, which brought us after riding ten miles mostly through woods, to Cole’s who keeps an Inn on this road in opposition to Dailey, on the Old Frankfort-Lexington Turnpike. But any traveler who has once contrasted the rough vulgarity and the badness of his table and accommodations, with the taste, order, plenty and good attendance of his mulatto competitor will never trouble Mr. Cole a second time, especially as there is no sensible difference in the length of goodness of the roads, and that Mr. Bailey’s is through a generally much better settled county.

Little Sodom burned in 1811. Cole, Jr. bought his father’s former competitor’s tavern and named Major Lee’s old tavern the Black Horse Inn. (Side Note: Cole, Jr’s great-grandson was the infamous Jesse James.)

The tavern also served as a tollhouse for the company owning the Frankfort Pike from Lexington. When in the early 1850s, the road from Midway to Versailles (now US-62) was constructed, the tavern became a dual tollhouse taking tolls from travelers from all directions.

A tavern of many names. Black Horse Inn. Lee-Cole Tavern. Lee’s Tavern. Dailey’s Tavern. But what of Offut? The historic marker suggests that Horatio Offut leased the tavern from Major Lee (or his widow) and constructed the brick section, but genealogical researchers suggest that no leases or deeds were ever recorded to Mr. Offut.

No Destination: 5-6-09

I just realized that I never wrote about my first “No Destination” drive. It occurred in early May – immediately after my last law school exam. I picked up two Pepsis and a bag of Fritos and hit the road. The purpose of the drive was simply that – to drive. Consequently, I didn’t take as many pictures as I have on more recent No Destination sojourns.

I traveled down U.S. 27 from Nicholasville past Camp Nelson and across the Kentucky River in order to take KY-152 over Lake Herrington and to Burgin and even further, to Harrodsburg. While I gloss over the drive down 152, one cannot easily forget the beautiful topography of this part of the Commonwealth – rolling hills and seemingly endless praries, streams and rivers.

Once in Harrodsburg, I drove down a busy Main Street with its many shops. The most fun of my trip came up US-127 from Harrodsburg. With an eye open for historical markers, I finally decided to take breaks with my camera. In the small Mercer County ville of McAfee (est. 1779), I saw a nice little church. New Providence Presbyterian – so named because during a 1773 exploration of the area, the McAfee Company neared starvation until a deer was found, killed and eaten. The current church was built from 1861-1864 and the church cemetery was amazing – truly calming.

Down one small road, I saw a farmer using his horses to prepare the soil for tilling. Down another small road, I meandered down to the Kentucky River (and saw a wild turkey!). I’m not sure if I met the river at Warwick or Oregon – each was a ‘major’ shipping port for flatboats and steamboats destined for New Orleans. I sat down a few feet away from the river and watched it pass by. It was exactly the calm I needed. After leaving my spot by the river, I worked my way up a different road (Cummins Ferry) to make my way back to US-127 – then to Lawrenceburg. US-60 to Versailles and then my usual path home to Nicholasville.

I did manage to snap a few pictures:

Woodford County Courthouse – Versailles, Ky.

I love Woodford County. I hope someday to live there, but surprisingly, I’d never been to downtown Versailles (pronounced Ver-SALES). This was my last stop for the day, and as you can see in the picture the skies were starting to cloud up. I have to say the courthouse is pretty interesting. First off, its HUGE. It takes up the whole block, and there wasn’t an inch of green space that I could see. A courthouse with no courthouse lawn, but, to each his own I guess. At least it eliminates any of the public forum/free speech concerns that surround courthouse lawns. Anyway, there are two sets of stairs that lead up to the doors from the sides, giving the courthouse a very imposing feel – very HALLS OF JUSTICE. I like it.

No Destinations – May 27, 2009

On May 27, we started in Fayette County and drove through Woodford, Franklin and Scott counties. It was a fun drive with an in-depth exploration of downtown Frankfort – the state’s capital. Learned:

  • Bibb lettuce was developed in Kentucky
  • Kentucky has an “official” covered bridge; it is the Switzer covered bridge in Franklin County
  • Justice John M. Harlan, the lone dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson (the case established the “separate but equal” doctrine, which was repudiated in Brown v. Board of Education; ) , lived for a time in Frankfort. In his famous dissent, Harlan wrote: “But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.”