Tom Eblen

200-year-old Paris house restored, expanded by descendant of the builder

The original part of Albemarle near Paris was built about 1816 by an ancestor of the present owners, Elizabeth Alverson and Cary Barr.
The original part of Albemarle near Paris was built about 1816 by an ancestor of the present owners, Elizabeth Alverson and Cary Barr.

When Elizabeth Alverson Barr’s grandparents bought the circa 1816 house at auction after World War II, they knew it was a diamond in the rough.

What they did not know then was that it had been built by one of her ancestors on land that his father, a Revolutionary War veteran, had acquired after moving to Kentucky from Albemarle County, Va., in 1786.

Barr’s grandparents did a major renovation and later passed the house on to her parents. She and her two sisters grew up there.

Now, following the death of her mother in 2011 and another major renovation and expansion, she is back in the house with her husband, Cary Barr, athletic director, coach and teacher at Paris High School.

“It has great memories, and it fits us,” she said of the Federal-style house her grandparents named Albemarle.

The house will be open for tours 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 2 during an annual event benefitting the preservation group Historic Paris-Bourbon County. Tickets are $10 for members and $15 for potential members. Refreshments will be served.

The house, at 444 Millersburg Road across from Bourbon Community Hospital, sits on what was once a 2,000-acre estate acquired by Major John Allen. About the time of his death in 1816, his son, Tandy Allen, had the house built for his bride, Amelia Metcalfe.

The builder was her father, John Metcalfe, who probably was assisted by his brother, Thomas “Old Stonehammer” Metcalfe, a prolific stone mason who was Kentucky’s governor from 1828-1832.

Tandy Allen was a lawyer who was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1822. A year later, he sold the property to a fellow legislator, William Alexander, who would become a wealthy industrialist.

Alexander built a hemp factory there with a 600-foot “rope walk” said to be one of the world’s longest. It allowed him to make ropes for rigging on huge sailing ships. The factory was operated by more than 100 slaves, whose cabins are long gone.

Alexander also created an early version of an interstate trucking company: a fleet of more than 100 six-horse wagons that hauled goods on early interstate roads before the railroads were built.

After Alexander, the property belonged to the Marsh and Duncan families before Paris newspaperman J.M. Alverson bought it at auction in 1946 and began a renovation that returned the front windows, which had been enlarged in the late 1800s to “modernize” the house, back to their original dimensions.

Albemarle was added to the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a Kentucky Landmark in 1975. Among its most notable features are original ash floors, beautifully carved woodwork and mantels and a leaded-glass fanlight and sidelights at the front door.

The Alversons’ son and daughter-in-law, Sanford and Louise Alverson, raised their three daughters and Thoroughbred race horses on the 25-acre property. Louise Alverson, a Lexington native, died in 2011 at age 90.

“We all three wanted the house,” Elizabeth Barr said, adding that one sister lives in Lexington and the other in Charlotte, N.C. She ended up with it because her husband works in Paris.

The Barrs last year finished a major renovation and addition by Crawford Builders and architect Jack Stewart of Lexington. They restored many of the original features and built a kitchen and an addition with a master suite and garage.

The couple has three grown children: two sons and a daughter. “Hopefully, we’ve renovated it for the next generation,” Barr said.

If you go

What: Tour of Albemarle, circa 1816 home

When: 2 p.m. — 5 p.m., Oct. 2

Where: 444 Millersburg Rd., Paris

Cost: $15, proceeds benefit Historic Paris-Bourbon County.

More info: (859) 987-7274