Local businessman Jerry Houck, former owner of Two Roads Cafe, has already started moving into Green’s and will soon open Perryville Market, selling quilts, home goods, antiques and jewelry.
The work on Morning Glory Gallery has been far more extensive, but only slightly more expensive.
Bill Faulconer and his crew from Chaplin Hills Timber Framers, a business located in Perryville, said his crew has been using historically accurate techniques and materials throughout its work on the building. The materials are being purchased, but Faulconer has been working on the building for eight weeks without charge.
“We really enjoy what we are doing, and we are students, constantly learning about the building as we open it up,” Faulconer said. “This was built in the 1840s, around when they stopped making these structures where people converted native trees into framing timbers. We have been using the traditional methods, where joints are connected with pegs instead of using a lot of 2 by 4s.”
Goode said the only work on the building that was contracted was shoring up the stone foundation, which was completed by stone mason Sims Kerbaugh.
Morning Glory Gallery, which was originally known as Burton’s Store, has been leased by Elba Fitzwater, who will be opening a bridal shop and also will be specializing in Civil War era attire.
Goode said the work on the buildings is being done with the blessing of the Perryville Battlefield Preservation Association, which had been at odds with the city over the lack of upkeep of the buildings. In 2001, the PBPA passed ownership of Merchants Row properties to the city, which in turn leased them back to the PBPA.
Now Bruce Richardson, who has worn many hats in Perryville, is trying on a new one after taking over as PBPA president two weeks ago for the resigning Don Kelly of Lexington. The owner of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas and Benjamin Press and a former mayor of Perryville, Richardson has served on the PBPA since its beginning but will be the first local head of the group.
“What we are trying to do now is get more local ownership, and we have gotten so many folks to come and donate their time already,” Richardson said. “What I have tried to do is bring Main Street, the city and PBPA together to see that local control is the best possible thing for these buildings.”
Richardson said the PBPA was formed with the mandate of preserving battlefield property. As the PBPA assumed responsibility for the buildings, Richardson said it was difficult to find the money and get approval for restoration work that needed to be done on Merchants Row.
Richardson said all of the local entities and the PBPA have been able to have detailed meetings with representatives of the Kentucky Heritage Council over the past several months to hash out what should and can be done within the historical preservation parameters.
“The key to making this work is putting viable businesses into the buildings,” Richardson said. “In the long run it only makes sense to have businesses paying rent to help keep the properties up to date. So far, just being here on Main Street and seeing the volunteers and the spirit of cooperation has been very encouraging.”
Itchy Dog Antiques has been one of the only businesses on the street to remain in operation. Itchy Dog owner James Pope has been mostly alone for eight years, but said he is looking forward to the company.
“I am very excited to see that they are fixing up the buildings and it will be so wonderful to have neighbors,” Pope said. “Most importantly, these are historically important buildings, and quality restorative work is being done. It will also be good for business. It goes to show that there is a lot of interest in Merchants Row.”
Pope brought in Jennifer Lanham to open Itchy Dog Cafe in October of last year. Lanham said the restaurant, which is known for its fresh homemade bread, will also benefit from the extra traffic.
“It’s great because we get tourists here all the time that look in the windows and look at the buildings wanting to go in,” Lanham said.
Fitzwater, who said she was drawn to the historic charm of the city all the way from New Hampshire, can’t wait to get started.
“My husband retired, and we were looking for a place to go,” Fitzwater said. “We feel like we found a little gem here in Kentucky.”
While the group has been working to fix the buildings and fill them with tenants, Goode said Main Street Perryville staff also have been planning a move to Merchants Row. They will set up offices, a visitors center and a museum on the second floor of city hall.