Blue House' revived
advance for converting house
into Welcome Center
Helen E. McKinney
LA GRANGE, Ky. (January 2005) Renovation of
the little blue house is a project close to Elsie Carters
heart. As mayor of La Grange, Carter has high hopes that this building
will become the focal point in welcoming newcomers to her city.
by Helen E. McKinney
150-year-old home will be restored
by community volunteers.
The little blue house is situated behind Carters
Garden Party Restaurant on Popular Avenue, just off Main Street. Unused
for many years, plans are being made to renovate the building for use
as a welcome center to promote county tourism.
A resolution was approved Nov. 1 by the La Grange City Council authorizing
Carter to sign an agreement with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
to pursue $75,000 in funding for the project. The city will be required
to provide 20 percent of in-kind matching funds, said former deputy
city clerk Darlene Rusnak, who wrote the grant.
So far, the city has got the OK and the legal documents signed
for this project, said Rusnak. The city actually received a TEA-21 grant
1 1/2 years ago, but because there were certain things it would not
fund, it had to be resubmitted, said Rusnak.
The little blue house has a long history. It is the oldest Gothic structure
in La Grange, said Carter. It dates to 1850 and was originally built
at 124 Second St. on property owned by the First United Methodist Church.
For a time, it was used as the youth pastors home. When the church
relocated, the house was sold to the city. Plans had originally called
for turning it into a parking lot, said Carter.
But City Council members saw potential in the structurally sound building.
The future welcome center will be a friendly place for visitors to learn
more about the county, Carter said. The inside will contain displays
about the history of transportation within the county.
Since the TEA-21 grant stipulated that all funding granted would need
to be applied directly to the house itself, the transportation displays
and outside landscaping will have to be paid for through in-kind donations.
Carter envisions this as a true community project, one literally built
and maintained by the community. Everyone can have a part in it
and feel that its not just a building, she said.
Many area residents already have pledged their time and talents. Local
businesses are donating their time to it, said Carter.
The state has requested that the welcome center be staffed while businesses
are open and operated by volunteers or city workers. Many Kiwanis Club
members have volunteered their time already.
Crossroads-La Grange Main Street Inc. director Keli Quinn said the building
is in relatively good shape. It would be easy to restore it to
create an office environment or welcome center.
The upstairs of the building could house an office, which may be used
for the Main Street manager or a city employee, she said.
Renovation cannot begin until results are released on an environmental
study being supervised by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The building
had to be assessed inside and out to determine how to remove the paint
currently on the building. Carter said it should not be long until volunteers
are scraping off old paint, repainting inside and out and installing
two restrooms and a handicap ramp at the rear of the building. Maps
directing visitors to restaurants and retail businesses will be available,
plus a public phone and water fountain.
Parking has been a concern, but space is available behind the Garden
Party Restaurant, directly in front of the little blue house. Carter
said a brick pathway leading through an open garden area behind her
building could direct visitors from Main Street to the welcome center.
Twigs, which is next door to Carters restaurant, is considering
selling decorative statuary from the backside of the business. Consumers
would be able to enter stores on Main Street and Poplar Avenue, increasing
This, in turn, would increase the value of the buildings. All property
on Main Street was too valuable to give up for a welcome center, but
Quinn said the little blue house will still be highly visible through
lots of signage. It would become a central location for tourist
information, she said.
Carter said the La Grange branch of the Oldham County Library is contemplating
a move to the empty lot across from the firehouse. If this move were
to occur, she would like to see the city use the existing library building
as a city hall. Carter thinks this would tie in nicely with the idea
of a welcome center across the street, expanding this area of La Grange
as a government center.
Susan Eubank, director of the Oldham County Public Libraries, said a
contract has been submitted to the city, which owns the library property.
They have 60 days to respond, said Eubank, who is hoping
to know something by mid-January.
As of now, the intended site for a new library is a parking lot, but
Eubank said a two-story, 20,000-square-feet building has been proposed.
The current La Grange library is under 5,000 square feet and very
crowded, she said. Of the three library branches in the county,
the total square footage equals 11,000 square feet, which is below county
standards for a county the size of Oldham County.
Plans call for office space, a large childrens area, a conference
room and the addition of books and new technology, such as increased
computer space. Patrons are standing in line now to use computers and
are restricted to 30-minute sessions.
A new location for the library would mean more space for local governmental
affairs to be conducted. As the county continues to expand, additional
space is needed to service residents and promote tourism to keep the
local economy healthy.
One of the goals of Crossroads-La Grange Main Street Inc. is to make
the city more pedestrian friendly and welcoming, said Quinn. Many feel
the establishment of a welcome center is a step in the right direction.
Back to January 2005