Preserving history

Carrollton’s Masterson House
receives contributions for repairs

City, county help support
upkeep of historic building

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (April 2009) – Members of the Port William Historical Society say they are determined to continue preserving the Masterson House for as long as possible. To do so, they have recently recieved a $10,000 grant from the City of Carrollton to cover the cost of repairs to the 208-year-old house, which sits on Hwy. 42 just a few miles east of town.

Masterson House

Photo by Helen E. McKinney

The first court held in Gallatin
County, Ky., was held in the main
portion of the Masterson House.

“We hope to keep the house maintained as long as we are physically and financially able to do so,” said Nancy Jo Grobmyer, the society’s outgoing president.
Grobmyer is also curator of the Masterson House and, along with the historical society, has been involved in its upkeep since the group inherited it in 1980. At the time, it was owned by Arkema, a local factory that used it as rental property. When the plant manager offered to deed it to the Port William Historical Society for $1, the group couldn’t refuse the offer to take possession of such an important piece of history.
“It was restored (in 1981) according to the historical integrity of the period,” said Grobmyer.
A new roof was installed at the time, but now it needs to be replaced. Window sashes need to be repaired, a new water line installed and a geothermal heating and cooling system is under consideration to make the house more efficient for community use.
“There are a lot of people coming and going here,” said Grobmyer.
The house is open for tours every Saturday, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and two Heritage Days are held annually. Also, Cub and Boy Scouts frequently use it, and it serves as the meeting place of the Port William Historical Society.
The house originally belonged to Sarah and Richard Masterson, who moved to Carrollton from Lexington, Ky. The Mastersons first settled near where Point Park is on Water Street. The site is now covered by the river.
The house was built by slave labor, said Grobmyer. The bricks are laid in Flemish bond and were made on the grounds. It is one of the oldest two story brick homes still standing on the Ohio River west of the Allegany Mountains, she said.
Masterson was among the early trustees of Port William (Carrollton), which was incorporated in 1794. His home was once the focal point of the town’s activities; the first court of Gallatin County was held in the main part of the house on May 14, 1799.
The Mastersons were leading Methodists, and the first Methodist church services in the area were held in their home, Grobmyer said. The couple is buried in the nearby family cemetery. In 1975, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Because it is a historic landmark, the City of Carrollton agreed to give $10,000 to the Port William Historical Society.
“I’ve seen it; it is in need of repairs,” said Carrollton Mayor Dwight Louden.
The city will contribute $4,000 of the initial $10,000 to be used for facade work, said Louden. The city is giving $4,000 through the Enterprise Incentive Program grant funding. The remaining $6,000 is to be used however the society sees fit to accomplish various repairs, he said.
Carroll County Fiscal Court has agreed to pay for the cost of fixing the roof of the Masterson House. “The roof is a big project,” said Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold Tomlinson.
The roof needs to be repaired before bad weather sets in, he said. “This is a difficult time for roofing projects,” said Tomlinson, referring to the bad weather and high winds in mid-September that damaged a lot of roofs. The county has budgeted $15,000 for this project.
A wooden shake roof will be added to the house, the style of which “preserves the integrity of the building,” said Sam Burgess, who serves as the society’s vice president. A member of the society since the 1970s, Burgess said that because of all of the wear and tear the home has experienced over the years, it’s time to refurbish the home.
A climate control system is necessary because of the valuable historical documents and antiques stored in the house, said Burgess. Humidity plays a huge role in deteriorating these items more rapidly.
The county has contributed $5,000 a year for the past few years to the Masterson House, but this barely covers the expenses, Burgess said. Utilities fees are high because the home is not insulated as well as newer homes.
Six months ago, the Port William Historical Society received a non-profit 501-3c status. Grobmyer said it is time for the group to solicit funding, create fundraising projects and “do what we can to also help out” with repair costs.
The society hopes to hold community celebrations at the Masterson House at various times in the future, such as during the Christmas holiday season.

• For more information, contact Port William Historical Society President Karen Claiborne at (859) 567-1993.

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