By Natalie Wilkerson,
Special to The State Journal,
The Franklin County Trust for Historic Preservation recently recognized four local projects with a Martha Moore Historic Preservation Award at the Paul Sawyier Public, during its quarterly meeting recently.
Designed by Kentucky’s first registered architect, Leo Oberwarth, the country estate, Weehawken, was built in 1860 in Jett. History buff Dr. Stephen Hall and his wife Jennifer were attracted to Weekhawken, in part, because of the numerous bedrooms, voluminous living spaces and ample yard. But as most of us find with older homes, the pint-sized kitchen and formal parlors were not conducive to the way families live today.
The Halls embarked on a preservation journey, commencing on a restoration of the original living spaces and a remodel of an existing 1910s addition. The interior of the house, though intact from previous owners who cared for the property, showed its age. Cracked plaster and worn floors were the relatively easy issues to address.
Plumbing, electric and HVAC were large undertakings. The rear addition, sympathetic to the character of the Greek Revival & Italianate architecture of the original house, was remodeled to hold a modern kitchen, laundry and living area.
The Bon Air and Country Lane neighborhoods have grown up around Weehawken since it was built, but the Halls have made great effort to keep this country estate in its historic context. Drystone fences still surround the house and circular drive. A spring house stands at the base of the hill.
Even the agricultural tradition has been kept alive. The Halls keep a chicken coop in the backyard and welcome baby chickens into their family every spring. Their commitment to Weekhawken’s past has solidified its future in Franklin County.
Vatter-Oetken Motor Company-T-Boat Marine-Frankfort Motel
The Vatter-Oetken Motor Company-T-Boat Marine-Frankfort Motel on West Main Street has housed businesses that made their mark on this community with impressive longevity of more than 100 years since the building was constructed.
The motor company benefited from a location on a prominent downtown artery in the early 1900s, with a large open first floor and garage doors to move automobiles in and out through.
Later, T-Boat Marine catered to river activity and could bring in boats in and out for repairs those same garage doors. The upstairs was more recently small apartments, but served for a time as the Frankfort Motel — a boutique hotel — we may call it today, with fewer than 10 rooms.
Despite the endurance of these businesses, the building has been vacant in recent years.
Joe Berry, a local carpenter and contractor, has worked for others on historic buildings around town for over a decade. His brother, Michael, has done the same in Cincinnati. The opportunity to rehabilitate the riverside property together was one they could not pass up. And with a third financial investor, Riverside Development was born.
The building needed structural stabilization, including a rear wall rebuild, a new concrete slab and reinforced columns in the basement. But the investors wanted aesthetic upgrades too.
The building now boasts three decks with views to the Capitol over the Kentucky River. The vast openness of the ground floor that accommodated car and boat repair has been retained and complemented with contemporary overhead doors that open to a steel deck spanning the river side of the space. Patrons of soon-to-open Goodwood Brewery will certainly take advantage of these new elements.
On the second floor, contemporary apartments have been developed, with salvaged elements incorporated into the new spaces. This project is a truly successful marriage of old and new and the perseverance and dedication to quality shown by the developers was outstanding.
The Macklin House, built in 1850 as a Federal-style brick dwelling with solid masonry walls — even on the interior, is a downtown Frankfort standout.
Matt Wingate and Moira Mulligan were drawn to the house because of the simple, stately architecture and the stories they had heard from Matt’s father, who had practiced law with the attorneys that owned the building.
When they first considered buying the it, however, they realized the house had been a bit romanticized. The once single-family home had been modified early in the 1900s to accommodate three residences and in the 1970s had been converted again to attorney’s offices — replete with acoustical ceilings and other less sensitive alterations.
Yet, the deferred maintenance worked in their favor. They were able to buy the property for a reasonable price, allowing them to match sweat equity with the financial investment they knew was needed to get the job done.
In addition to removing inappropriate alterations, the couple dealt with the removal of bats, that had taken up residence in the attic. New plumbing and rewiring required quality time be spent in the tight crawlspace/basement. Other significant portions of the project included exterior repainting and interior plaster conservation.
The imposing staircase is now grand enough to serve as the backdrop for Wingate and Mulligan’s engagement. Pocket doors have been released from entombment and restored to functionality. Also, being lawyers themselves, the old barrister cases have been reused as flanking bookshelves around the parlor mantle.
Bluegrass Realty office
The Bluegrass Realty office, located on Wilkinson Street, is just a couple of blocks from the Bibb house, where Joe Johnson grew up.
In 2014, Johnson and business partner, Rick Browning, were looking for an office for their real estate sales and appraisal businesses. They wanted to be downtown so they could walk to the deed room, courthouse, banks and attorney’s offices and have easy access to restaurants, the coffee shop and the Broadway barber.
The vernacular building they chose had been apartments and, though the front, early 19th century portion of it had a number of unique historic features, several rambling additions had been tacked on over the years and were in fairly poor condition. It had considerable deferred maintenance, but Johnson and Browning felt it was well-suited for their business needs and were willing to make the investment to improve this part of downtown Frankfort’s historic fabric.
They restored the original front portion of the house, including the wood lap siding and fully rehabilitated the multi-paned windows. They also designed a complementary two-story rear addition to the house that added long-term functionality to the structure.
Now the building has plenty of natural light, beautiful wood floors and a spirited exterior paint job. It is an asset to the neighborhood and will be for years to come.
Photos of the awarded projects will be on display in the front cases of PSPL through October.