When they were scouting a move to Lexington a decade ago, Diane Follingstad and Al Scovern loved the vibrancy of downtown.
“The night we drove in, there was something going on downtown,” said Al, who laid eyes on Lexington for the first time during that December 2007 visit. “There was a lot of activity, and we fell in love.”
As Diane prepared to take a research position at the University of Kentucky and the couple planned their move from Columbia, S.C., they knew they wanted to be part of that bustle. A beautiful, historic two-story brick house at 468 West Third Street – centrally located downtown – fit their vision. With a baby grand piano in the large entryway, “it looked like a New York townhouse,” Al said. “And that was it.”
Built in 1888, the Lazarus House was first owned by Fred Lazarus, a Lexington dry goods merchant who lived there with his wife, Pauline, and his brother Samuel. Lazarus lived in the home until 1913, when it was sold to William R. Milward Jr., and the home remained in the Milward family until 1951. The Victorian-era home, described in a Lexington-Fayette County Historic Commission record as having “carefully composed and freely interpreted Romanesque styling,” is nearly 3,000 square feet, not including the ample basement and attic.
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Diane treasures the elegant touches of their three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home. “I love the high ceilings, I love the grandeur of all the moldings around the windows, the base, the woodwork, all the architectural touches … the detail work,” she said. A cherished feature is the huge china closet with glass doors in the dining room – about 9 feet tall with sturdy, extra-long shelves. “My parents had one when I was little. … I love it.”
Aesthetically, there’s also “something about the feel of this house, that people walk in and they feel comfortable,” Diane said. Wide thresholds, the substantial entryway with open staircase and roomy hallways upstairs contribute to a sense of flow.
Outside, striking architectural details catch the eye, including stone accents above the windows and stylized brickwork at the side and on the chimney stacks. A curved entry porch with rusticated stonework extends from the home’s east side. A flat roof over the porch is trimmed with a lovely frieze of acanthus leaves. At the southeast corner, an unusual three-quarter round window lights the inside staircase.
Diane and Al have brought their own artful touches to the home. They’ve updated the kitchen, gutting and re-creating it with the help of Laura Dalzell of Cabinets & Designs. Black soapstone countertops, spacious white cabinets, a marbled subway-tile backsplash and stainless-steel appliances give the space a crisp feel.
“We cook a lot, we really use our kitchen,” Al said. With that in mind, they utilized a “work triangle” concept, arranging the refrigerator, cooktop and sink for optimal efficiency. As an avid cook, Al enjoys the upgrades, including two ovens (one with a professional-grade hood), an extra-deep sink and a pot filler above the stove.
“We were looking to upgrade it, but have it still look like it fit in an 1880 house,” Diane said.
The breakfast nook provides a view of their sizable back yard and garage-turned-art studio. With the addition of drywall, insulation, air conditioning, lighting and an upgraded electrical system, the studio is a comfortable space for creating. Al, a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, has become an accomplished fine-arts ceramicist since taking up pottery-making eight years ago. He and Diane, director of UK’s Center for Research on Violence Against Women, enjoy spending time on the art fair circuit sharing his work.
The couple’s appreciation for art is obvious. Paintings, fine art photographs, pottery and mixed-media works – many with vivid colors and abstract themes – bring contemporary flair to their 130-year-old home. Their collection includes works by a number of artists, including Helene Steene, Ray Papka, Dennis Campay, Daphne Covington and Chris Klassen.
‘In the middle of life’
With their home in the heart of the Northside Historic District, Diane and Al enjoy being close to so many restaurants and entertainment venues. “You walk to everything,” said Diane, who notes that it wasn’t long after they moved in 10 years ago that the Jefferson Street Corridor experienced its revival. Blue Heron Steakhouse is a favorite destination, along with the Lexington Opera House, Rupp Arena and Transylvania University.
“There’s something about living downtown,” Al said. “You’re in the middle of life. What that tends to do, it tends to make the community a little tighter. People are proud to be downtowners.”
As attached as they’ve become to their home and neighborhood, a new adventure awaits. Diane plans to stay on at UK for a couple more years, but the couple will pursue their dream of living on the water, with an eye to retiring in Penobscot Bay, Maine.
Diane makes one thing clear. “We have to find something we love as much.”
This week’s feature home is listed with Karen Deprey of Keller Williams Bluegrass Realty.