Friday, April 24, 2009



Last week, after several days of overcast weather, and finally, today the sun was shining, I decided to spin out to the historic small village of Paint Lick, Kentucky. The unincorporated town sits among picturesque farms and homes while the Paint Lick Creek runs along one of its boundaries. Truly, a charming place to live. Paint Lick is located in Garrard County which has a population of 3000 plus residents. The pollution factor is almost nonexistent with it being declared in the top 20% cleanest counties in the U. S.

My first stop was at Rick's restaurant. The restaurant was neat, clean, and friendly with locals sitting at various tables. It reminded me of small- town restaurants when I was young.

I was looking for someone to tell me about the early house I had spotted on the hill as I rode into town. It looked abandoned yet intriguing with history wrote all over it. Fortunately, Dottie, the wait-staff person, that I talked to initially, steered me right to the owner of the house. He was enjoying some coffee at one of the oil-clothed tables and is a regular at Ricks. After Dottie introduced me to Ike Burnnett I sat down with him for an engaging conversation and coffee.

He told me that he had lived in Rockcastle County at one time but moved to Paint Lick along with his wife, Eva Mae, in 1979. At that time they bought and still own the I-House (the house on the hill) yet, he now lives in a newer house near town with his wife of 58 years. Pre-retirement he had worked at Berea College as a supervisor of the Wood Craft department training students in the old skills of making early American and colonial furniture plus old timey small items such as skittle games. He said when he worked there they began every production with raw wood that had to be dried in kilns at the college. Today they start with already dried wood for their craft program.

The early I-House once had belonged to the Campbell family. At that time it was a homestead of a few hundred acres but when the Burnnett's bought it the size had shrunk to three acres. It sits on a hilltop with a view of the village and Paint Lick Creek.

Above is a side view of the house with its side gable ends as is usual with I-Houses. The very earliest of I-Houses in Kentucky do not have windows in the gable end. The house's exterior material is weatherboard (wood). Ike's hilltop house has a two-story back ell that he said is where they spent most of their time while they lived in the house. The ell has a fireplace that he used to keep stoked to stay warm.

The front part of the house has two fireplaces, one at each end of the gable, each being interior, only the chimney stacks on the roof hint that there are fireplaces in the house. Overall, there are three fireplaces. Ike enjoyed the house while he lived there, planting a garden every season. I asked Ike for permission to drive up the hill and take photos of the house. Of course, he being a very congenial man, quickly said "yes" to my request.

The drive up the hill is over a narrow dirt lane. Its climb is steep and a bit curvy. When I first got out of the car, up by the house, I thought of copperheads as that is Kentucky's native snake that loves to sun itself and it was sunny. It was apparent this ground had not been walked on for a while so I watched where I stepped. And I stepped hard as ground motion scares them away.

The first thing I spotted around the back of the house was the ruins of a very old root cellar -- reached by about 30 to 40 steps from the back ell doorway. Its side banks were stacked limestone rocks. It had seen better days but was surely used by early inhabitants. Now it is slowly caving in on itself.

I reminded myself to stay on what looked like the used pathway around the house. Old wells can send you flying to the depths of hell and, when you are alone -- who knows where you are if you fall in? This happened to an acquaintance of mine one time and she still carries the scars on her legs.

This is a photo that is only the top half of the front doorway. Lots of stuff was piled up toward the bottom half that got in the way of the photo so I just include the top in this photo. The door reflects the early Greek Revival style of architecture with side pilasters and side lights. Earlier, Ike had given me a construction date of around 1830s for the house. My calculation as to the type of house this was -- a vernacular I-House with Greek Revival influences.

Here is a better look of the exterior weatherboard construction. Also, the six over six lights (glass panes) that place them into the 1800s.

This house has many secrets, I'm sure, as it has lived such a long life. Over time, from its hilltop site, it has viewed a devastating fire in Paint Lick and a flood on Paint Lick Creek that wiped out the bridge over the river. It has experienced different families and surely laughter and sadness. I felt something up there that day on the hill that was very peaceful -- it is a place I hope to return to and attempt to sort out some of its many pieces.

No comments:

Post a Comment