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December 9, 2010

Council votes for preservation resolution

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — London City Council voted to draft a resolution indicating the city’s desire to preserve the Pennington House and endorse all historical preservation in the city Monday.

London Downtown’s Executive Director Chris Robinson addressed the council during Monday night’s regular meeting and explained the need for preserving historic buildings and sites within the city.

Concerning the Pennington house, Robinson told council members there was “no new news.” Robinson said the 14-day time limit given by the Project Development Board was short in terms of generating a plan for an alternative for the home, which is slated demolition to make way for a parking lot.

“But the demolition of an entire city block is not to be taken lightly,” Robinson said. “If allowed the time for a more solid plan, is the city willing to partner with us?”

That partnership might include money although Robinson could not give an exact amount. He did say Joe Asher had given a price of $75,000 to emove the house from its current location, how

ever, Robinson said there is “no committed property to relocate the house if preservationists could raise the money.

That coupled with the fact that the house would lose some of its historic value if relocated to another site is another factor facing those hoping to save the Victorian style house.

Jim Hays, who works with the Kentucky Heritage Council, said the house at its current location is what makes the house an important part of London’s history. It is called the Pennington house in honor of Henry Vincent Pennington, who founded Pennington Hospital, the forerunner of Marymount Hospital.

But the home’s history goes beyond the Pennington family. Hays told council members that a Baugh family descendant married into the Pennington family. The Baughs were descendants of John Pearl, one of the first families of Laurel County — before Laurel County was formed as a county. With that information, Hays said the role of the home in London’s history is even more significant than just its relation to the Pennington family.

Hays reiterated the history of the new Judicial Center, which took Main Street properties of a gas station and another old house formerly used as the office of London attorney Joe T. Roberts. Now centered between Jensen, Cessa, Benge and Webster law offices and the London-Laurel County Chamber of Commerce office, the judicial center has a parking lot with 50 spaces, Hays said.

“If it’s possible to tear a house down and put in 50 parking spaces, why couldn’t they make a triple decker and have 150?” Hays asked. “The county owns millions of dollars of property in the city for parking lots.”

Donna Horn-Taylor addressed the council concerning potential options for the home, including its qualifications for listing on the National Historic Register. Horn-Taylor said the home met two of four criteria in 1998, although current owner Tom Weatherly never had the structure listed.

“But the house has a lot of potential uses,” Horn-Taylor said, adding that another 24 to 48 hours could hold even more promise for a more concrete plan for the home.

Council members Nancy Vaughn and Judd Weaver both voiced their support in keeping the historic home at its current location although Vaughn said she could not do more than approve a resolution supporting preservation of the home.

Robinson said London Downtown had recently received a $4,500 grant toward defining historic properties and establishing projects for those sites.

“It’s too little too late, I know, but it’s a start,” Robinson said.

Councilman Danny Phelps added that the Boreing mansion on East Fifth Street is another historic home worth preserving — an area that Robinson had previously mentioned. If the Pennington house does not survive the current plans for removal  or demolition, the Boreing home will be the sole Victorian style home in London, Robinson said.

Donna Horn-Taylor, however, told the council that an extension of time held “possibilities” for the 120-year old home situated on property where the Laurel County Fiscal Court wanted to locate a parking lot. She did say some more information might be available “by Friday.”

“If so, Chris (Robinson) will be coming with a financial proposal and we’re hoping that will be with the city as a partnership with other agencies,” Horn-Taylor said.

Monday, Dec. 6 was the deadline for preservationists to present a proposal for Kuhl to relay to the Project Development Board members who have overseen the construction of the judicial center and a parking area for visitors and patrons. In prior meetings board members stated the project needs to be resolved by Dec. 31, although Horn-Taylor said Weatherly is willing to work with the preservationists past that date.

Laurel County Judge- Executive Lawrence Kuhl could not be reached for comment on the status of the county’s and Project Development Board’s position at this time.

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