State

Harrison group sues to stop demolition of Handy House

The Harrison County Heritage Council, a group of local preservationists, have sued to stop demolition of the Handy House. The 1800s structure has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2005.
The Harrison County Heritage Council, a group of local preservationists, have sued to stop demolition of the Handy House. The 1800s structure has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2005. gkocher1@herald-leader.com

A group of Harrison County residents filed suit last week seeking an injunction to prevent demolition of a historic house.

The lawsuit filed by the Harrison County Heritage Council asks a judge to issue an injunction requiring city and county governments to preserve and protect the Handy House, built in the early 1800s.

A hearing on the motion for an injunction has not been scheduled.

Harrison Fiscal Court and the Cynthiana City Commission were moving toward having a contractor tear down the house for $7,500, with the city and county splitting the cost of demolition.

Earlier this month, Lexington entrepreneur Griffin VanMeter offered local governments $10,000 to buy the house and, according to his letter to local officials, “turn it into a signature landmark” that would benefit the region.

Fiscal court magistrates voted 4-2 on July 12 to reject VanMeter’s request. Cynthiana Mayor James D. Smith has not yet signed a demolition contract, said Hank Graddy Jr., an attorney for the Harrison County Heritage Council.

Local elected officials say preservationists have had years to take concrete action to restore the house, which sits atop a hill overlooking Flat Run Creek Veterans Park, a 120-acre park owned by the city and county.

Demolishing the house, the lawsuit says, would violate a 2012 comprehensive plan, adopted by the city and county, that includes a goal and objective to preserve and protect historic resources in the community.

The city and county also violated state law because they have not consulted with the Kentucky Heritage Council regarding the long-term preservation of the house, as required by an agreement. That failure to consult also violates a federal law, the National Historic Properties Act, the lawsuit says.

For the city and county to reject a purchase offer and instead use public money to pay for demolition would be “a waste or an intent to cause waste of public funds,” the lawsuit says.

The house was built in 1818 by William Brown, a veteran of the War of 1812. Union soldiers camped on the farm surrounding the house during the Civil War.

In the 1880s, W.T. Handy owned the farm and raised trotting horses there. After his death, the house became known as the Handy House. Some also refer to it as Ridgeway.

The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

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