Members of the Platt family were known for opening their century-old house near Versailles to guests for all kinds of gatherings. Now that the Dufont Farm house was gutted by fire on Monday, The Lexington School and the Woodford County community are rallying to repay the hospitality.
The Lexington School, where John Platt is a fourth-grade teacher and wife Flora Platt is a substitute teacher, has set up an account at Republic Bank for donations.
"Closer to the school year, we also are probably going to do a clothing drive, but we're waiting to find out what the family needs before we do that," said Chuck Baldecchi, head of The Lexington School.
He said the Platts opened their home to school faculty at the end of the academic year. "It was just an old home, but they don't make 'em like that anymore," Baldecchi said.
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In addition, family friend Jennifer Bradley of Versailles said the Platts would like to receive photos of the home or cards or letters from people who recall taking swimming or bridge lessons at the house.
"They would love to hear from people," Bradley said. "They want to put it all in a book so they have some memories. This is healing for them."
The Platts were visiting family in Wisconsin at the time of the fire. A house sitter called 911 shortly before 4 a.m. Monday after waking to the smell of smoke and later discovering that the attic was on fire. Fire officials have said the cause might have been electrical.
Dufont Farm was part of a 1784 land grant and had remained in the hands of heirs ever since, according to information the family submitted for a plaque from the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation.
The house was once the home of John Platt's grandmother, Mary Andrews Goff, who died at age 91 in 2005. She was known for making "Dufont Toddy" bourbon-ball candies and taught bridge to many local residents. She also gave swimming lessons at the house.
The two-story home that burned Monday had replaced a house that was destroyed by fire on Nov. 14, 1901. That fire apparently started when an oil lamp ignited a curtain in an upstairs room, according to an article that appeared some years ago in The Woodford Sun weekly newspaper. The construction of the next house had already begun by August 1902, the paper said.
During the 1930s and '40s, the property had one of the two or three swimming pools in Woodford County, and many residents can remember going there to take a dip.
Bradley recalled a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere during her visits to the house. "The kids swam, and we visited. It was all about gatherings," Bradley said.
When the Platts return from their summer trip, they won't have a problem finding people willing to host them, Bradley said.
"When they come back they're going to stay with me, but there have been quite a few people who have offered homes," Bradley said. "They haven't really gotten that far yet."