The Carrick House, a Lexington landmark, is getting a long-awaited addition that brides, as well as preservationists and downtown neighbors, can beam about.
The historic mansion, with its hand-painted murals and carved marble mantle pieces, was built in the early 1800s. At Third Street and North Limestone, it anchors the Constitution Historic District.
Before caterer Jerry Lundergan bought the property in 2007, it had been Whitehall Funeral Home. But in recent years it's been the site of many a Bluegrass wedding and party.
To allow for more guests, Lundergan put up a temporary structure in April 2008.
Carrick House called it "The Greenhouse." The city called it a tent. The neighbors called it awful.
After a yearlong court battle, the white structure at the side of the building came down in September. Now, the Carrick House is putting up a 5,000-square-foot addition on the back that will have a rooftop garden, outdoor patio and landscaped grounds.
Alissa Tibe, vice president of marketing and development for the Lundergan Group, said the addition, with its grand ballroom, glass-domed atrium and 40-foot waterfall, will be ready around the end of February.
It will retain the house's gilded aspect but with a contemporary feel, Tibe said. And it will almost double the number of guests the house can accommodate, she said. The ballroom will hold about 700 people "cocktail-style" or 500 for a sit-down banquet; the rooftop garden will hold 125.
After buying the house three years ago, "we were so excited to be downtown and have a place to have parties," Tibe said. The tent, she said, was necessary to test the market for a facility.
"We've got over $3 million invested in this addition. Before we spent that money, we needed to know what we had," she said.
What they had, apparently, was a nuptial gold mine.
So much so that the Carrick House was booked every weekend from April through October, with multiple events some weekends.
Neighbors in the historic district had been less than thrilled with the temporary structure, which did not have to meet the same architectural guidelines that the permanent facility meets.
Those who live in the district "spent a lot of time, money and love" on their homes to meet the historic standards, said Lendy Brown, who lives on Third Street. But the temporary structure, which had more than one six-month tent permit, did not, she said.
"We certainly did not want to stop any of his events or his business ... but a metal structure with temporary fencing and air conditioning units in our face was pretty much thumbing his nose at the neighbors," she said. "Everyone commented on the structure."
The city did more than comment: In 2009, it took Lundergan to court over the tent. The Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation tried to join the suit but was not allowed.
"We felt and believed it was an inappropriate structure within an historic overlay district," said John Rhorer, an attorney who is on the trust's board. "Had it only stayed up a short period, I think we could have lived with it. But it was approaching two years."
In May, a Fayette Circuit Court judge granted the city's request for a temporary injunction and told the Carrick House the tent had to come down in September after all the booked weddings had been held, according to the city.
Now, preservationists say they are more than satisfied with the changes.
"They did as much as they could to show it to the neighborhood in advance," said Linda Carroll, the Blue Grass Trust's board president. "We're really happy he agreed to put it behind the house. ... I think it will be a fabulous thing for the neighborhood. It's a great venue. We don't have anything this size in Lexington. It's really a wonderful space."
Tibe said the neighbors were very receptive to the change and helpful in advising on design. "We really took into account that this is a neighborhood and there are people who live here and have to look at it every day," she said.
Brides apparently like the changes as well. Carrick House already is booked solid from March through May, Tibe said.