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Expert gives advice to Perryville preservationists

August 18, 2003|EMILY BURTON

The floorboards still creak at the old Park Store on Merchant's Row, but where hatted and heeled ladies once tread, spiders now stroll. Among the long, warped rows of mercantile shelving, cobwebs rule where penny candy once reigned.

After more than 100 years in operation, The Park Family store has sat empty for decades and is now desperately in need of renovation, like many local historical homes. However, without the right advice and materials, homeowners could do more damage to century-old houses than good. Perryville Main Street/Renaissance Program and Perryville Enhancement Project helped historic homeowners preserve their small part of history by holding a workshop Saturday.

Historic preservation architect Joe Opperman led a tour through the Park store after speaking to local historical home owners about preservation issues. During his lecture, Opperman gave tips on what materials to build with, advice on how to handle contractors and warned against using modern, untried products on older homes.

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"If a product hasn't been around long enough to establish a track record, don't believe it. Don't believe it," said Opperman.

The workshop was funded by a $15,000 grant from the Kentucky Heritage Council, received last year.

Jerry Sampson of Harrodsburg attended the workshop to learn how to better preserve his 1890s home, and said he found it very helpful. Though upkeep can be difficult and time-consuming, Sampson said his home was worth it.

"You just get a different feeling from an old house, the chimney, the woodwork. Just the special details they don't put in houses today," said Sampson.

Scott Walters, a historic preservation specialist with the Kentucky Heritage Council, also spoke at the workshop, encouraging homeowners to use authentic materials.

"Practical historical reconstruction is much more economic than building," said Walters.

"We've come across a lot of contractors who say, 'You need to tear this down and make it modern', so I think there is a definite bias out there," said Ann Wilson, workshop participant

David Dobbs agreed. "A lot of contractors don't want to repair, they want to replace," said Dobbs. "Materials aren't what they used to be, walls aren't what they used to be."

"I try to impress upon my clients, if you have a building you expect to have for a while, and you want a good cost-effective solution, think in terms of, 'Is this a tried and true solution, and how long will it last?" said Opperman.

Krista A. Rinehart, director of development and public relations for the Perryville Enhancement Project, was instrumental in the organization of the workshop. As the group toured Merchant's Row, Rinehart said she was glad it was a success, and hopes it can help build community support for historic preservation.

"It's nice to be able to extend that throughout the community," said Rinehart. "We're very, very lucky to have (Opperman) on the project, he's one of the best in the country."

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