Highland House a Carrollton gem

Mougeys have remodeled and added
home to National Register

By Ben Fronczek
Staff Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. • Located on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River in downtown Carrollton, the Highland House offers visitors both a beautiful view and a lesson on local history. Owners Don and Ruth Mougey are in the final stages of fully restoring the property, but its history dates back to the early part of the 20th century.

Ruth and Don Mougey

Ruth and Don Mougey display their certificate
for placing the Highland House
on the National Register of
Historic Places.

During the early 1900s, the land was owned by Adelaide and William Fisher. Adelaide's father, Myron Barker, was a major tobacco broker who in 1879 set up residence at what would now be approximately two doors east of where the Highland House sits. 
Barker called the land he purchased Richlawn Farm. There he grew tobacco and operated as an independent broker until 1902, when he sold out to the American Tobacco Co., which at that time was monopolizing the tobacco industry. 
Shortly before Barker's death in 1909, his son, Ralph, started new tobacco warehouses in Carrollton. Adelaide and William acquired the land after Myron's death and built a summer home on it.
In 1918, though, the house burned and the couple began to rebuild over the course of the next five years. About a year before it was finished, Adelaide became ill and soon died. William then sold the land and nearly completed house to Ralph.  In 1923 the historic structure that is now Highland House was born.
From 1923 to Ralph's death in 1952, Richlawn served as a significant social venue for Carroll countians. "People who were kids back then stop us and tell us today about what they remember of the house," says Ruth Mougey. 
Passersby at that time would have seen fabulous yard displays at Christmas and the Fourth of July.  
Ralph Barker also loved dogs and owned 37 great danes. "He used to make a joke about his last name," Ruth says, displaying a Christmas card with dogs that reads: "Merry Christmas from the Barkers."
In the years following Ralph Barker's death, the house had a series of owners. The house began to slowly deteriorate and had no heat or hot water. Don and Ruth Mougey came to Carrollton from Iowa and purchased the land in July 1996. 
"Even though the ceiling was on the floor, we fell in love with the place," recalls Don. "This home was so unique and different. We fell in love with the style, the river, the light that comes into it." 
The Mougeys were ready to face the challenge ahead, though. The project would end up being their fourth restoration. "We kind of knew what we were getting into," Don said. 
In restoring the Barker house into the Highland House, the Mougeys focused on maintaining as many original details of the original structure as possible. 
The two-story, stucco-covered house has a gable roof of green glazed clay tile with six dormer windows. There are two exterior chimneys.
Ruth raves about the "creative eclectic" architectural style of the house, designed by Charles Barton Kean and C.F.A. Voysey. "Creative eclectic" means that many varying architectural styles are used in combination to create a perfect blend rather than using a single consistent style. The Highland House embodies a variety of many famous styles.
According to the Mougeys' narrative description of the house, it features an Extant Federal style that includes the fanlight over the entry way and the Palladian style door, located at the front of the house on the second floor. There are various window types both of the Tudor and Arts and Crafts styles. 
The house also features fluted and rectilinear columns on its porches and foyer as well as three balconies on the second story with French doors that open into the four-corner rooms of the house. 
The interior of the house is a combination of styles also, with the Tudor rose medallion of the living room fireplace and the Arts and Crafts glossy finish of the living room and foyer. All of the rooms except the kitchen and pantry have oak hardwood floors that are laid out in what is called a "picture frame" style. Such a layout means that the floor boards closest to the walls border the central portion of the room in a square picture frame shape. 
Of course, a fascinating aspect of the house's location is the wonderful view of the Ohio River. Not only does the interior contain spacious windows that enhance the look out to the river, but behind the house there lies a riverbank garden. 
When the Mougeys first purchased the land, the bank was hardly visible from being buried in debris left over from the 1937 flood. Now after much work, the bank boasts a tall limestone staircase that descends to a patio and fountain. The Mougey's narrative notes that in the days of Richlawn, the staircase led to a sandy portion of land by the river called Barker's Beach. There was also a fish pond that was once connected to the fountain. It was filled in during 1995. The Mougeys plan to grow perennials on the bank. They have a passion for gardening. They have more gardens west of the house.
Last April, the Highland House was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the Mougeys operate a bed and breakfast there that plays host to weddings, reunions, business meetings and other gatherings. 
"It has a wonderful feel that older homes have without the inconvenience of being an older home," says Ruth. The Mougeys have dedicated four years of their lives to ensure that the once popular site beautified by the Barkers will maintain its historical image.

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