Tom Eblen

Tom Eblen: Harrodsburg holiday home tour spans more than two centuries of style

Mary Margaret Heaton is the fifth generation of her family to live in the North House in the Mercer County town of Burgin, built in the mid-1800s. Her ancestors put the cut-flower border in this room soon after World War I.
Mary Margaret Heaton is the fifth generation of her family to live in the North House in the Mercer County town of Burgin, built in the mid-1800s. Her ancestors put the cut-flower border in this room soon after World War I. teblen@herald-leader.com

Old houses often get remodeled and added onto over the years to meet the needs and reflect the tastes of successive owners. But few have the kind of split personality you find at Burford Hill.

The house is among seven properties on tour 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 5 as part of the Harrodsburg Historical Society’s 24th annual Holiday Homes Tour. Downtown Paris also has an historic homes tour the same afternoon. The society also will have its annual Christmas Tea Room open Dec. 4-5 at historic Morgan Row on South Chiles Street.

John L. Bridges built Burford Hill about 1817 overlooking Kentucky’s oldest city for his wife, Anna, the daughter of John Adair, a governor, senator and Congressman. Bridges became a legislator and longtime circuit court judge.

Bridges’ house was classic Federal architecture, with large Palladian windows and an elegant double Georgian front door similar to the famous one at Lexington’s Hunt-Morgan House. Burford Hill’s intricate woodwork is thought to be the work of the renowned Mercer County craftsman Matthew Lowery.

But before Daniel and Laura Sullivan, a teacher and artist, bought the house 14 years ago, the previous owner had added a large 1970s contemporary addition on the back that engulfed the original detached kitchen.

The addition added significantly more living space, even if the architectural transition was jarring. The Sullivans have given the oldest parts of the house a lot of love, including restoring the Palladian windows. They now have it with 10 surrounding acres listed for sale for $324,000.

The parsonage beside Harrodsburg United Methodist Church also has gotten some makeovers since it was built about 1840, all for the better. It is thought to be the oldest continuously used Methodist parsonage west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The parsonage will be on tour along with the church next door, which dates from 1889, when it was built to replace an earlier sanctuary.

Richard and Marian Bauer’s house on East Lexington Street looks at first glance like a typical late 1800s Victorian. But a closer examination inside reveals Greek Revival woodwork typical of the mid-1800s. They know there has been a house on the lot since the 1840s, but they think this one dates from about 1865.

As they have sorted through many renovations since then, the Bauers have found a few surprises. For example, when installing a ceiling fan in a back room, they uncovered a section of tin ceiling tiles that they left exposed as an accent.

The smallest house on this year’s tour is an early 1900s cottage that Karen and Mitch Doyle bought three years ago and renovated. They have made the most of the small space; the former front porch has been converted into a sunroom and many interior doors have been removed to make the house feel more open. They have filled the charming cottage with antiques and estate-sale finds.

The tour includes several “drive by” houses, where the interiors are not open to the public. These include the Woodlawn mansion and the oldest structure on the tour, a late 1700s stone house now used as a storage building. That pioneer structure is on the National Register of Historic Places and dates from when Central Kentucky’s first settlers arrived here on the nearby Wilderness Road.

Two houses on the tour are in the nearby Mercer County town of Burgin. Mary Margaret Heaton is the fifth generation of her family to live in one of them, the North House, which dates from the mid-1800s.

Burgin was a railroad town when Heaton’s ancestors moved there, and her grandmother was postmistress. The formal front room has a floral border around the top of the wall that her grandmother installed after World War I.

If you live closer to Paris than Harrodsburg, you may want to take that town’s Holiday Historic Homes Tour, which is from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. the same day.

The tour begins at the Hopewell Museum and finishes there with a full English tea and a silent auction. Paris also has its annual Christmas Parade that day, beginning at 5 p.m. The Paris tour is sponsored by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, and proceeds benefit several community charities.

IF YOU GO

Harrodsburg Holiday Homes Tour

When: 1-7 p.m., Dec. 5

Where: 220 S. Chiles St., Harrodsburg

Cost: $15 adults, $11 seniors and groups of 20 or more

More info: (859) 734-5985 or Harrodsburghistorical.org

Paris Holiday Historic Homes Tour

When: 2-5 p.m., Dec. 5

Where: Hopewell Museum, 800 Pleasant St., Paris

Cost: $15, $10 for groups of 10 or more. Free age 14 and younger

More info: (859) 955-0165 or Holidayhomesparis.eventzilla.net

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