Penmoken Park residents work to rehab houses and make them home

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comSeptember 10, 2013 

Mary Parker and her husband Bill bought the bungalow at 146 Penmoken Park in 2005 thinking it would be a great house for their sons to live in while they attended the University of Kentucky.

Built in 1937, the house was what they considered "typical student housing." The living room served as a bedroom, the outside of the house was covered in tan siding.

"It was good enough for them and we knew they wouldn't hurt it," said Mary Parker.

But even back in 2005, she knew the house had unrealized potential, kind of like a pretty girl in matronly dress.

"I thought it was a darling house and could really be cute," said Parker.

About a year ago, the Parkers started renovating the home in earnest.

This isn't their first project. Their massive home in Hardin County had been a decades-long project. But as their family grew up, the house — which had five bathrooms — was too big and too far out in the country.

"I was looking for a community and that is what I have found here," said Mary Parker of her Penmoken neighborhood.

So the soon-to-be retired and retired federal civil service workers teamed up for another rehab project.

She takes care of the inside and the decorating. He does the carpentry and heavy lifting. When he has something unwieldy to cut with a saw she becomes his "sit upon" and sits on the item to hold it in place.

They've been working things out like that for a long time.

The couple met when she was just 17 and new to Hardin County. Her family was staying at the local motel and she was by the pool in a swimsuit.

He drove by in his '68 Nova with black stripes, engine humming, music blaring. He was 21, a local disc jockey and the drummer in a band. When telling the story, Bill Parker shakes his balding head to indicate that back then there were some pretty luscious curls there instead.

He was stunned when he hollered at her to come to the car and she said no.

"How could she possibly resist all that," said Bill Parker, laughing at the memory.

"I thought 'my Lord, what was that,'" said Mary Parker about her first reaction to him.

She told him he needed to talk to her father before she could speak to him, figuring that would be the end of it. But he drove around the block and came back and they've been together ever since.

They have a shared passion for history and enjoy learning about the origin of bungalows and the era in which their house was built. They work together to find the right accessories, like a table near the door they found at an antique auction for $20 or the wrought iron fence in the front yard.

"My favorite thing is seeing it like it might have been in 1937," said Bill Parker.

This is not a renovation with an endless budget. They saved up some money before Bill Parker retired. She shops at Hobby Lobby for things to go on sale and watches online sales for historical salvage that might fit into the warm, comforting atmosphere she is in the midst of fine tuning.

Mostly, they both love their new neighborhood and have seen a resurgence of many of the 50 houses on the street, many in various stages of renovation.

"It's an old-fashion neighborhood," said Bill Parker.

The couple likes nothing better than sitting on the front porch and chatting with folks as they walk by with their dogs or take their babies for a stroll.

They enjoy playing cards with the neighbors. And they plan to take advantage of the free classes taught to senior citizens through the University of Kentucky. They like that they can easily walk places or drive to a variety of restaurants and entertainment nearby. They are kind of tickled by it all, actually.

"It's mid-America and it's wonderful," said Bill Parker.

They are still working on the house. There is woodwork to be finished. Chair rails to put up. Trim to be finished.

"There is a dim glow at the end of the tunnel" that is their project, Mary Parker said. They don't really have a schedule and they are the kind of folks who tend to like somewhere to tinker, especially Bill.

"If I can get it done a week before I die, that would be great," said Bill, with a smile.

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.

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