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Bourbon County museum raising $150,000 for repairs

Repairs needed to save historic Paris building

Saving the historic building means raising a total of $150,000. The Paris museum is on the National Register of Historic Places. Executive Director Leah W. Craig explains.
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Saving the historic building means raising a total of $150,000. The Paris museum is on the National Register of Historic Places. Executive Director Leah W. Craig explains.

Even after 108 years, the lines of the Beaux Arts building are strong and straight. But a closer examination reveals parts of the parapet wall subtly out of line and, of course, there is the problem of falling pieces of terra cotta.

Chunks of the Hopewell Museum building, some about the size of a deck of cards, have in recent years started falling from around the roof. One restorer working on a corner of the roof found that a large chunk of terra cotta was hanging by a wire. If it had fallen, it would have hit the gas meter, said the museum’s executive director, Leah W. Craig.

Beyond that obvious sign of structural trouble, water has seeped through the terra cotta exterior of the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and that water is beginning to affect the strength of the brick walls. What has happened, Craig said, is that as wire used to hold the terra cotta in place corrodes, it expands, allowing dampness to penetrate the brick of the walls.

It was the Kentucky Heritage Council that first recommended that repair begin as soon as possible, Craig said. Some tax credits are available for historic buildings, but it was up to the museum to raise the money for the repairs, which began at the first of the year and should be complete by the end of summer.

Fundraising continues. So far, Craig said, about $80,000 has been raised, although the online fundraising account shows only $300. That’s the amount that has come in directly through that account but not all the donations that have been made, she said.

On the corner of Eighth and Pleasant streets, the museum attracts about 5,000 visitors a year and has about 200 paying members. Craig said it has deep roots in the community, and people have been eager to preserve the building, which originally was used as a post office and later as city office space. The museum moved into the building in 1995.

Craig said fund raising has gone well, and she’s confident that the museum will reach its fund raising goal. “People here are aware of their heritage and very cognizant of the importance of preserving that history,” she said.

Ron Carter, a member of the museum board, said the board has been successful in fund raising before. In 2003, the museum raised $500,000 and received a $250,000 matching grant from the National Park Service for start-up projects.

While there have been some significant gifts over the years, he said, most museum supporters are working-class people who give what they can. The museum has also benefited by having many volunteers with real world experience working in museums. That, he said, has helped built a small town entity attracting high quality exhibits.

Carter referred to Hopewell as one of the architectural gems of the county.

People from all over the country contact Craig while doing genealogy research on their Bourbon County ancestors, she said. In addition, the museum has rotating historical exhibits with local ties, and a small bookstore inside an old vault dubbed The Vault store. It contains a collection of history books by people from Bourbon County about the county.

According to the Kentucky Heritage Council, Kentucky has more than 3,300 listings on the National Register of Historic Places, fewer than just three other states. A listing can be applied to buildings, objects, structures, districts and archaeological sites. Proposed sites must be significant in architecture, engineering, American history or culture.

Click here to learn more about the restoration project. You can also contact the museum at 859-987-7274, or send donations to Hopewell Museum, 800 Pleasant Street, Paris, Ky. 40361

Bourbon County facts

▪  Population: 19,985

▪  Originally, Bourbon County spanned land that makes up 34 modern Kentucky counties.

▪  The first Bourbon County courthouse was established in 1787 in Hopewell, which was renamed Paris.

▪  Bourbon County is one of the leading producers of Thoroughbred horses in the world.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Bourboncoky.info, Bourbonky.com

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