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Garrard ready to build Uncle Tom's Cabin

LANCASTER — Two-hundred-year-old logs wait on the ground, a Mount Sterling man is making shingles and construction of a replica of the fictional Uncle Tom's Cabin is expected to begin in Lancaster in mid-June.

The cabin will be built on the grounds of the Gov. William Owsley House on U.S. 27 about a mile south of the Public Square, but it won't be ready for tourists and visitors until summer 2010.

"Once we start, it will go up fairly fast," said Skip Gladfelter, a retired IBM executive who serves as Garrard County's tourism director. "We should have it up in a couple of months."

However, it will take many more months to locate furnishings for the cabin as author Harriet Beecher Stowe described them in her classic 1852 novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, which aroused strong anti-slavery sentiment as the United States moved steadily toward the start of the Civil War in 1861.

The novel was a best seller in the United States, England, Europe and Asia; translated into more than 60 languages, it remains one of the most famous works in American literature.

There is some convincing evidence that Stowe was influenced by a visit to a large slave plantation in Garrard County. But literary historians and Stowe's biographers disagree on this point. Some scholars say Stowe never visited the South and that the real Uncle Tom's Cabin was in Maryland or Canada.

Gladfelter said the Garrard Countians who are putting up the replica are well aware of the dispute and aren't trying to resolve it. Their goal is to be faithful to the novel. "I only know what is in the novel," and the builders want a cabin that resembles as close as possible the famous but fictional one in Uncle Tom's Cabin, he said.

"None of us has gotten comfortable that we know the truth," Gladfelter said.

"The goal is to have all of the materials come from Garrard County," he said. "At least everything will come from this region."

The logs came from a house on Danville Street that was torn down last year by the Lancaster Church of Christ.

County leaders say the replica cabin can increase historical interest in the county and thereby boost tourism and economic growth.

The goal is to have it ready by or before the opening of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington from Sept. 25 to Oct. 10, 2010, Gladfelter said.

With so many people from different countries wanting to tour Central Kentucky and with Uncle Tom's Cabin ready as a new attraction, Garrard County officials say they could enjoy a substantial increase in visitors at the Owsley House.

Currently it attracts about 300 to 500 visitors a year, Gladfelter said.