County Historical Society
Center working steadily
to renovate historical church
Helen E. McKinney
LA GRANGE, Ky. (May 2005) Over the last several
years, the Oldham County History Center has steadily grown in space
and holdings. It is a repository for county information and an adjoining
facility is currently under renovation for related activities.
Behind the history center and the J. C. Barnett Archives and Library
sits what is commonly known as the 1880s Presbyterian Church. The Oldham
County Historical Society board of directors purchased the church in
2001 through private donations, said history center executive director
by Helen E. McKinney
will make building more
accessible, to be used for community
and educational programs.
Former city clerk Darlene Rusnack wrote two proposals
for the project. The history center revised one of these facade grants
applications, resubmitting it through Discover Downtown La Grange and
the City of La Grange. This grant, obtained through the Kentucky Heritage
Council, totaled $18,000, which allowed the history center to renovate
the front of the church. The history center was responsible for supplying
50 percent of the match.
For the last two years, the history center has been awaiting the results
of a transportation grant, applied for to renovate the sides of the
church, said Theiss. Of the applied for $42,000, the history center
is responsible for providing one third of this amount. This grant was
also submitted through Discover Downtown La Grange and the City of La
If the applied for funds are received, the history center hopes to complete
work on the historic church this year.
Scott Schindler of Top Gun Construction was hired to complete the exterior
facade renovation process. The building had been renovated a couple
of times, said Schindler, who completed the facade work last year.
Masonite siding was removed to expose windows, and Schindler applied
three coats of paint to the front of the building. He is familiar with
the history center, as he has done a substantial amount of renovation
work in the past on the Peyton Samuel Head Museum. Schindler has also
completed personal maintenance and repair work for several historical
society members, so they were familiar with his work when he bid for
Other bidding companies wanted to only repair the windows of the building,
but Schindler replaced them with new units for the same price. He has
also renovated numerous older buildings in La Grange.
The history center is in the process of finishing another grant, awarded
through a local funding organization known as the Head Trust, of which
they have supplied a 30 percent match for interior work. This grant
totals almost $100,000.
Bill Lammlein, of WJL Design Associates, drew up interior and exterior
plans for the church renovation project. The interior of the building
is in a terrible shape, not really suitable as an open gathering space
for museum use, even though the history center has been using it, said
Plans for making the building more efficient call for the installation
of handicap accessible restrooms, a small catering-kitchen, a large
storage space and a small meeting facility. Lammlein said a 25-foot
fake, vaulted ceiling will be removed, and side windows will be restored
to let natural light back in.
The fake ceiling covers the top half of the 12-foot windows. Structurally,
it is in excellent condition, said Lammlein. But the exterior
is not people-friendly.
The history centers goal for this project is to use the building
for school programs and history education related events. A bluegrass
concert by The Cumberlands was recently held inside the church for the
private opening of the Hermitage Farm exhibit. During the summer
it will be the base for our history camps and we plan to have a lot
of activities outside, said Theiss. In case of rain, we
can use the church which is heated and air conditioned.
The property has a long history. La Grange resident Amanda Mount donated
the land for the building to be built upon in 1880. Mount, along with
her husband, John, lived in the present archives and research building.
Mount was the great grandniece of Elizabeth Railey, Thomas Jeffersons
mother. Mount was a Presbyterian whose son married Rob Morris
daughter. Morris, an outstanding member of the community in his own
right, was the founder of the Eastern Star organization and Poet Laureate
for the Masons. Morris often refers to the church in his writings.
So that Mount will not be forgotten by the community to which she gave
so much, she is portrayed by history center volunteer Peggy Burge. In
her presentation, Burge reads letters sent to Mount by her nephew Amos
during the Civil War.
The history center is just waiting for approval from the TEA-21 grant
to continue exterior renovations, said Lammlein. While funds for the
interior work may be in place, interior and exterior work needs
to be done at the same time, he said.
For more information, contact the Oldham
County History Center at (502) 222-0826 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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