Living

Rebuilt house, reclaimed wood in Lexington’s Kenwick neighborhood

A porch addition at George Gatewood’s guest house in the Kenwick neighborhood in Lexington.
A porch addition at George Gatewood’s guest house in the Kenwick neighborhood in Lexington. palcala@herald-leader.com

In a neighborhood of bungalows, the house at 268 Lincoln Avenue stands out because it looks more like a mountain retreat.

And inside and out, the house is 100 percent reclaimed wood.

The exterior siding is clad in milled planks from horse farm fences. Inside, the floors, door frames, kitchen cupboards, paneled ceiling and exposed rafters are recycled wood from old barns and warehouses throughout Central Kentucky.

Just about every piece of this petite house — only 850 square feet — comes with a story, owner George Gatewood says.

Marble for the countertops in the kitchen is from the old First National Bank and Trust Co., now the 21C Hotel on Main Street. The red shutters are from Maker’s Mark Distillery, and the stained glass windows are from a church in Mount Sterling. Two kitchen stools were made from wood from bourbon barrels.

The 6-foot-long, 1940s vintage porcelain farm sink came out of a log cabin on Don Robinson’s farm on Military Pike.

Check out the hallway floor, with pine planks alternating with planks that have a hint of green paint left on them. The pine boards are from Churchill Downs when the track tore down two barns to make room for a Jumbotron screen.

The green planks were salvaged from the broodmare barn on Faraway Farm, where War Admiral was foaled. War Admiral was a son of Man o’ War, considered one of the greatest Thoroughbred racehorses of all time.

“I tore that barn down probably 10 years ago,” Gatewood said. “I squirreled away some of that wood for my own little projects.”

The stories go on and on.

Gatewood has access to century-old beams, barn wood and plank fences through Longwood Antique Woods, a business he started more than 20 years ago, specializing in reclaimed and recycled wood.

“I’m a preservationist at heart. But sometimes things have got to go, and it’s better to recycle them than bulldoze them down,” he said.

Gatewood bought 268 Lincoln Avenue when it came up for sale about two years ago. He lives next door.

While he and his friend, architect Craig Rushing, worked on the house, it frequently turned into an impromptu jam studio for Gatewood’s band, Tongue-n-Groove, and Thoroughbred owner Arthur Hancock IV’s band The Wooks. Not to mention that country singer Tyler Childers, who used to pull nails for Gatewood, would stop by when in town.

The goal for the redesign was to make the house open and light, “where you could entertain, grill out, play music and look through cool books,” Gatewood said. “We had fun with it.”

The house was taken down to the studs. A wall between the living room and the kitchen was removed to make one spacious living space. The old floor was pulled up, replaced with milled wood from the Winn tobacco warehouse in Winchester, where Gatewood’s grandfather once sold his tobacco.

The eight-foot lowered ceiling was ripped out to reveal a 15-foot vaulted ceiling that follows the roofline of the house. The new ceiling is paneled with boards that were lightly painted then gently sanded for a distressed look.

Ceiling joists were replaced with “my favorite rafters, ever, because they are ash, hand-hewn, from a 220-year-old barn on Ruddles Mill in Bourbon County. They’re unique because they have marriage marks on them,” Gatewood said, pointing to Roman numerals cut into the sides. Marriage marks are from a numbering system carpenters used to keep the custom-cut rafters in correct order.

Door frames and other woodwork are rough-cut barn wood, painted white to lighten the interior.

The “world’s smallest addition,” 4 feet by 10 feet, was added to the back of the house, creating space for a stackable washer and dryer. Over the addition is a small loft named the “Wook nook” for Hancock’s band, which is scheduled toplay at the Festival of the Bluegrass this weekend at the Kentucky Horse Park.

With two bedrooms and a bath, the house is a favorite guesthouse for the steady stream of Gatewood’s friends who come to town.

Art is found throughout, including a wood sculpture over the fireplace by Gatewood, an art major at Eastern Kentucky University, made from fence planks cribbed by horses.

There are photographs and paintings of horses, especially Man o’ War. One photograph taken by James W. Sames III is of Man o’ War and his longtime groom, Will Harburt. Another is of the Man o’ War statue at the Kentucky Horse Park, and a third of the barn on Faraway Farm where War Admiral was foaled.

“The romance of Kentucky is about bourbon, horses, art and music, and that’s what I try to define in my house,” Gatewood said.

Beverly Fortune is a former Herald-Leader reporter. Contact her at beverlyfortune123@gmail.com or at (859) 948-7846.

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