Cynthiana: Countdown to Demolition

Handy House

The Fiscal Court of Harrison County meets tonight in Cynthiana to vote on whether to demolish the Historic Handy House, also known as Ridgeway.   You can read more about Handy House in my earlier post.

Entrance to basement where slaves were kept on first arrival

Entrance to the basement room used to confine newly purchased or “problem” slaves. The chains and shackles are long gone.

It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the majority of the council members will vote to demolish the house.  They insist that it sits on the exact spot in Flat Run Veterans Park where a community pool must be located.

Never mind the amazing history of the home and its owners.  Never mind the Lincoln connection. Never mind its role in early horse racing in Kentucky.  Never mind the chance to shine a light on what it was like to be a slave in Harrison County before the Civil War.
“I think to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game.  Kentucky gone, we cannot hold Missouri, nor Maryland. These all against us, and the job on our hands is too large for us. We would as well consent to separation at once, including the surrender of this capitol.” 1861 letter from President Lincoln to Cynthiana native Orville Browning.

You can read more about its history here:  http://harrisoncountyky.us/historical-society/the-handy-house-1-introduction.htm.

What a difference 2 years of neglect makes. May, 2012.

Handy House was holding its own in May, 2012.

Time and time again, the Fiscal Court has  indicated that demolition has been the plan from the start.    Demolition by neglect has quickly taken its toll on the house.  From reading the news coverage of the controversy, there seems to be only one council member fighting to save Handy House.  The Friends of Ridgeway Historic Community Center have ably addressed every obstacle put in the way of preserving the house, but the Fiscal Court seems intent on having the last word.  It has even refused to listen to a plan to move the house in order to save it.  Petty politics seem to be at play.

I have seen this happen too many times in the short time I have lived in Kentucky.  When our built history is gone, it’s gone forever.  We’ll be left with subdivisions full of expensive cookie-cutter homes that won’t last fifty years, all just a short drive from an ugly fast-food strip.  “Welcome to Cynthiana:  Interchangeable With Any Other Generic American Town.”

handy house 21

..and only two years later. Demolition by neglect quickly takes its toll.

Too many people in Kentucky don’t get it.  They continue to demolish the very thing that makes Kentucky different from other states.  When someone finally realizes they’ve killed the golden goose of heritage tourism, it will be too late.

#ThisPlaceMatters

9 thoughts on “Cynthiana: Countdown to Demolition

  1. I wonder if the Fiscal Court is still meeting at this hour up in Cynthiana. I haven’t seen any reports as to the outcome of their meeting yet. Your daughter would probably enjoy the Gardens to Gables blog–well, you would, too! Many of her posts are about her time in England last year. There’s also a Gardens to Gables Facebook page, which is a good way to be notified of new blog posts.

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    1. I don’t think we’re alone in our appreciation of heritage tourism, although I’m sure it doesn’t draw the numbers that some other types of tourism do. And I’m sure they like the look of our money just as much!

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  2. I am so disappointed and sad to read this piece of news. I have enjoyed the peace and quite of this spot for many months. It is a perfect backdrop to the Flat Run Park and a great reminder to the local community. History is important and should be treated with respect even if you can’t acknowledge its worth.

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    1. Whitney, you don’t happen to have Wilder family connections to Crab Orchard, do you? A relative of mine (New Mexico) on my mother’s side has connections to Crab Orchard on his father’s side–Civil War era. I wrote a post about it with his ancestor’s details (see Lincoln County: Crab Orchard).

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  3. It’s difficult to understand why the council would insist on demolishing the house and putting a swimming pool in that very spot when preservationists have come up with the money not only to renovate and preserve the house but to celebrate its history. Or do they perhaps want some of that history to be lost forever? I understand there is a movement in the South to deny that slavery ever happened there and that historical sites that document slavery are being systematically destroyed.

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