Preservationists try to save historic house

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Associated Press

Posted on December 23, 2012 at 11:01 AM

BARDSTOWN, Ky. (AP) — A group of preservationists are trying to save a stately, but deteriorating historic home in Bardstown.

Anatok is a 165-year-old red brick house linked to a 19th century black Catholic civil-rights activist that sits on the campus of a Catholic high school in the historic center of Bardstown.

School Principal Tom Hamilton told The Courier Journal (http://cjky.it/VPm7E8) that affordable preservation ideas were unsuccessfully sought two years ago. He says officials eventually decided the best course of action would be to demolition the building and a permit was obtained on Dec. 10 with plans to begin the deconstruction over Christmas break.

Those plans were put on hold last week, however, when the Kentucky Trust for Historic Preservation and other plaintiffs took the issue to court. Nelson Circuit Judge John David Seay issued a temporary injunction that blocks the home from being demolished, at least until a Jan. 7 hearing on the matter.

Preservation Kentucky Executive Director Rachel Kennedy said destroying the home would knock out a piece of Nelson County's architectural heritage.

She says tourists visit the area for its connections to frontier Catholicism, the bourbon industry and "My Old Kentucky Home" songwriter Stephen Foster.

They don't come "to see the Walmart," Kennedy said, countering arguments that it is too expensive to preserve the house. "What they come to see are the buildings that make Bardstown important, and that is an economic development issue."

Bardstown resident David Hall said activist Daniel Rudd was born a slave on the former plantation and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, the order of nuns who founded the school, lived in the house at one point.

"There's no justification why this house should be lost and dismantled considering what it is and where it is," Hall said.

Hamilton said estimates for renovating the mansion into classrooms approached $1 million.

"We got lots of ideas for what to do with the building. We got nothing in the way of, 'Here's some funding,'" he said.

In recent years, the structure has been used mostly for storage, but the school's insurer says it needs to "fix it or take it down."

"We didn't want to tear it down, but in terms of our mission as a school, it makes sense for us to utilize this as student space," he said. Some of the walls and pillars would be preserved, he said, and that would "remember and honor the historic nature" of the campus and city.

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Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com

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