It was built for an influential financier and bank president -- J. Stone Walker -- in the final quarter of the 19th century.

It's unique design made it one of the most interesting residences in Madison County.

It remains an eye-catching site to anyone who passes by it on Lancaster Drive in Richmond almost 150 years later.

The double-pile brick structure has long, narrow windows, with a low-hipped roof, decorative ironwork and many other distinctive features.

"As far as I know, there are no other examples of the Italianate style in Madison County," Kathy Flood of the Madison County Historical Society said.

The only occupants these days, however, are dozens and dozens of pigeons.

The J. Stone Walker House was purchased by Eastern Kentucky University about a decade ago. For most of the time, the structure has sat there empty and slowly decaying.

Broken windows, rotting wood and busted bricks are only partially hidden behind the invasive, destructive ivy that crawls up several of the outside walls of the building.

"It's just sitting there falling apart," said Bryan Tipton, who renovated the historic Lynwood Estate in Richmond.

The deteriorating condition of the building has caused concern for those interested in preserving local history.

And recently, many feared EKU was ready to tear the building down.

"It would be a huge loss to the historic architecture of Richmond," said David E. Jones, assistant director of Richmond Tourism.

At least for now, it looks like the building will not be lost to history.

In response to an inquiry from The Register, EKU issued a statement on Wednesday through Kristi Middleton, chief external affairs officer.

"The current EKU administration has no immediate plans for the J. Stone Walker house or property," the statement said. "The university is actively reviewing all capital assets through the normal capital planning process as EKU seeks to develop a comprehensive plan for all EKU assets. The razing of any EKU property will always be a last resort In an effort to preserve and protect the history of our university and community."

It also appears that the university also has no immediate plans to sell the property, either.

Tipton has been actively seeking to purchase the house for the past few years.

His main interest is in simply preserving the structure and its unique architecture, and to make the renovations he said it desperately needs.

Tipton's efforts, though, have led to nothing but frustration.

"They mentioned that they had started the process of getting it off the National Historical Registry and that they had run into some roadblocks," Tipton said.

EKU made the property and house available in a silent auction three years ago. A local attorney, Scott Collins, had the winning bid, however, he was informed that university officials had decided not to sell.

Collins says the lot, with the house, was appraised at $58,900 in 2017. It was almost estimated that the residence would need at least $400,000 in repairs/renovations.

Since then, the house has remained empty, and continues to decay.

"It's at a tipping point," Collins said. "It either needs to be torn down or renovated."

The real condition of the house is a bit uncertain at this point.

Tipton has not been able to see most of the inside of the building, and his biggest concern is potential water damage if the roof is not secure.

"I don't know," Tipton said. "Maybe there's nothing that can be done to save this building."

And with rumors circulating of the historical house located on Lancaster Avenue potentially being razed, the Richmond City Commission was the next to discuss what -- if anything -- could be done.

Original conversations began in the commissioners comments portion of a previous meeting by Commissioner Mike Brewer, who heard the historic home was perhaps going to be torn down.

A more in-depth conversation carried over to the city's workshop meeting on Tuesday morning involving members of the county historical society and potential buyers of the home.

"I know we have people in the community who are concerned about this, and I know we have people in the community who have invested in these homes and are renovating them," City Manager Rob Minerich said.

But a bigger discussion spawned of extending the historical district in city limits to include more houses in the area.

Brewer asked several members in the meeting if the city could require maintenance to be done to the home if it falls on the national registry, or in the city's historical district.

Minerich responded saying he was not entirely sure, but to his understanding, if federal monies or grant monies were used to acquire the structure, the university would be hard pressed to tear it down.

Newly appointed City Attorney Tyler Frazier jumped in and stated the university is a "political subdivision" of the commonwealth of Kentucky, which the city could not impede on, but the city could require university officials to come before the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Tipton chimed in his attempts to talk to officials at EKU, who again stated they have "no immediate plans" and if they were to raze the structure, it would just be for parking.

Minerich reported the only option the city would have at this time is potentially using a community block grant, and making a community center or shelter having made renovations, which was all hypothetical.

He added it was not in the city's interest, however.

The city reported it will attempt to look at expanding the historical district and potentially provide tax breaks or incentives for people to purchase old, historic homes.

React to this story:

0
0
0
2
1

Recommended for you