Two residents recently bought both sides of a building that was previously Frankfort's firehouse with plans to restore it to the look of its heyday.
Grand Theater President Bill Cull and Bluegrass Realty owner Joe Johnson recently purchased the building at 307 and 309 W. Main St. According to the Franklin County PVA, Firehouse Investments bought 307 W. Main St. for $150,000 on June 27 from Law Place Inc and bought 309 W. Main St. on May 24 for $180,000 from Tamra Hurst.
The city bought the building to use it as the firehouse in 1867. Cull said that the building was split into two separate spaces in 1958, after it was no longer used as a fire station. Since then, the building has been home to the County Clerk's Office, WFKY, a loan business and more. In recent years, it was home to a photo studio and an AirBnB apartment.
The property's construction has been "copied and pasted" in the last several decades, Cull said. The black-painted bricks on the exterior were added in the 1960s, and wood panels on the front of the building cover old windows and crown molding. When it was in use, Frankfort firefighters parked firetrucks inside the ground level of the building, in between original columns.
"Very few people have recognized what the building is and the history," Cull said.
In an effort to restore the building as accurately as possible, Cull has been gathering some history of the building and looking at photos from Frankfort residents and the Capital City Museum. Some of the old black-and-white photos show firefighters controlling horses and wagons in front of the station.
Cull said that restoring the firehouse is a side project for himself and Johnson, albeit an important one. The pair plan to restore the facade of the building and possibly have something like a small coffee shop or espresso bar in the building this fall and other businesses in the building after restoring the front of the building by spring. The property could have several uses because it's such a large space. Cull said the bottom floor is around 5,000 square feet.
Around the country, business owners have turned former fire stations into spaces that honor their properties' history, Cull said. He saw Firehouse Brewing Co. in Rapid City, South Dakota, while on a trip to see Mt. Rushmore. The brewing company, which has the tag line of "100 Years of History," offers customers beverages and food as well as a gift shop with T-shirts and firefighter hats for kids.
Giving tourists and locals a reason to stay in downtown Frankfort is important, Cull said. It's a cause that he has devoted his life to. He began restoration efforts on the Grand Theatre in the 1980s and has worked on other local projects.
Restoring landmarks in the area, like the fire station, could bring more visitors from out of town and entertain Buffalo Trace guests in downtown Frankfort, he said.
"This will be something to cause people to come over on Saturday," Cull said.