Former library in Stanford to become museum

December 22, 2003|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - The log walls are buried under years of plastic siding and out-dated wallpaper, but underneath the customary white vinyl lies a treasure on Main Street. Once home to the Harvey Helm Memorial Library, the abandoned house in the 300 block of Main is the target of a $485,000 grant for its restoration and preservation.

Or rather, what has been entombed in the walls of the former library for so many years will now be rescued.

The white building with black shutters was built around a 200-year old two-story log meeting house, once the home for some of Kentucky's first Presbyterians on the Wilderness Trail.

Estimated to have been built in the early 1790s, the historic structure has been preserved in part by the very walls that hide it. Bark still clings to the skin of many of the wide, worn logs, recently unearthed from under floral wallpaper.


"It is in very good shape, simply because it has been covered over for so many years," said Irene Jaggers, president of the Lincoln County Historical Society.

While well preserved, work is still needed to guarantee the building's survival for centuries to come. The state grant will pay for critical repairs, such as work on the foundation. Upon completion, the meeting house will be converted into a museum and home for the Lincoln County Historical Society.

"It's not only preserving our heritage, it's also the oldest church, and it will help bring people downtown," said Mayor Eddie Carter.

Carter said he was enthusiastic about the upcoming project, and anticipates the museum will draw tourists and history buffs.

"It is one of the oldest log churches west of the Allegheny Mountains," said Carter. "We want to put the church back, as close as we can, to the way it was in the late 1700s."

Carter credits Lincoln County Judge-executive Ronald "Buckwheat" Gilbert and state Sen. Ed Worley (D-Richmond) with getting the funds through the city and county's joint application.

"I think that helped us get the grant, that it was for county and city government. Judge Gilbert and Sen. Worley really went to bat for us. They deserve all the credit," said Carter.

Gilbert said the grant was well-deserved, since the meeting house was rumored to have been constructed with logs from the remains of Logan's Fort.

"We're just hoping to preserve an important part of our past and make some kind of a tourism attraction on Wilderness Trail," said Gilbert.

Details of the meeting house's history leave some questions among historians, but have still implemented the church as a key factor to the development of the commonwealth. It has not been determined exactly when the structure was built, but documents show that the land for the meeting house was donated by Samuel and Mary Logan Briggs, the great-great grandparents of President Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln.

It has also been learned that the father of Presbyterianism in Kentucky, Father David Rice, once took the pulpit among the rough hewn logs, in what was at that time part of Virginia.

It is this colorful history that has preservationists holding their breath to see the half-million dollar grant put to good use, with construction starting in the spring.

"We are extremely excited about this," said Jaggers. "This is something that should have been done years ago."

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