By Bill Robinson
Members of the Madison County Historical Society and others interested in preservation are petitioning fiscal court to consider renovating and reusing two historic buildings it owns on the courthouse square.
On Thursday, the petition’s online version had collected 52 names.
The petition can be accessed by going to www.change.org, clicking on browse and then entering Madison County Fiscal Court in the search field.
The petition originated at a Tuesday meeting called by the historical society attended by 28 people. The assembly also adopted a resolution calling on fiscal court to create a nine-member committee to study ways to preserve and reuse the Miller House and the Old Creamery at the corner of First and Irvine streets, northeast of the courthouse.
The committee would consist of three members appointed by the county, three appointed by the city and three by the historical society.
Because the Miller building was once an important city property and part of the Downtown Richmond Historic District designated by the National Register of Historic Places, the city should have an interest in its preservation, society members said.
The meeting was called after historical society members heard unconfirmed reports the prevailing sentiment of fiscal court favored demolishing the Old Creamery, which the county recently acquired, to make way for a parking lot.
One fiscal court magistrate, Greg King, and one city commissioner, Robert Blythe, attended the meeting, but neither spoke.
The Miller House lies inside the city’s H-1 (Downtown Historic) Zone, in which special permission is required before private structures may be altered or demolished. However, the restriction does not apply to county- or state-owned property. The Old Creamery lies just outside the H-1 Zone.
The Miller House was built around 1818 as a home for Col. John Miller, an early settler of Richmond, who donated the land on which the courthouse stands. The city was named for his hometown, Richmond, Va., capital of Kentucky’s “Mother State.”
The building later served as Richmond City Hall and police headquarters, then was home to the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, according to “Madison County Rediscovered,” a survey of historic structures published by the historical society in 1988.
The Old Creamery, as its name implies, was once a milk-collection point for local dairy farmers. Jerry Dimitrov said Tuesday she remembered delivering milk there as a child with her mother.
The building also was once Richmond’s post office, “Madison County Rediscovered” states. It later was used as a law office.
It was built as a “double house” about the same time as the neighboring Miller House, according to the local historic properties survey.
At Tuesday’s meeting, historical society president Jackie Couture projected an aerial photograph made of downtown in 1976, the U.S. Bicentennial, when the district was placed on the National Historic Register. Since then, 23 of 65 buildings have been demolished or destroyed, she said.
We are losing our history,” Couture said, adding the materials and craftsmanship of the two buildings could not be duplicated.
County officials may be content to let the buildings “rot to the ground” instead of preserving them, Dimitrov said.
Although they may not be in good shape, the buildings are not beyond repair, she said. White Hall, the home of Cassius Clay, had been in worse condition before it was restored.
I never dreamed they could put it back together the way they did, Dimitrov said.
Some at the meeting expressed fear the county would quickly demolish one or both of the buildings unannounced,
However, Charles Hay, the society’s former secretary/treasurer, said Judge-Executive Kent Clark once assured the society the county would not act precipitously.
Historic preservation has economic benefits, said Richmond artist Ronald Gosses.
Restoring old structures costs no more than new construction, he said. It increases the value of surrounding property, conserves resources, benefits surrounding businesses and helps revitalize business districts by attracting visitors and counters urban sprawl.
Bill Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 624-6690.