Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Demolished Anatok Plantation Mansion, Bardstown, Kentucky

Located in Bardstown, Kentucky, the historic Anatok plantation house was built in 1847.  By the time you read these words and see the pictures that follow, it may have been torn down.  These are photos of its final days, waiting as the wrecking crew guts it, tearing it down, brick by brick.  If the current court order is pulled, the house will again face demolition. 

Anatok Mansion, July 15, 2013.  The demolition has already begun.

Historical preservation is a tricky thing to do well, or right, or even in some sort of balanced manner.  Not everything old is historic and worth saving, while not everything new is without value or merit.  Regardless, once something has been demolished, it is gone.  It may be rebuilt or restored, but the building will never exist as it once did.  Anatok is going to be gone.  

Dumpsters, being filled with debris.  Per the local media, anything of value is being stripped out, for reuse or perhaps resale.
Built in 1847, Anatok suffers being an old house in a city of old stuff.  My Old Kentucky Home is close by, as is the Bardstown Cathedral, the old Court House, and any number of other historically interesting and valuable places.  Had this mansion been somewhere else in the state, I believe it would have survived.

The mansion was originally rectangular in shape.  An addition was added to its back after 1900, giving it a T shape.  The newer part is evident in this photo, as the bricks on it have a brighter red color. 
 Perhaps the biggest challenge facing preservationists, (aside from money, as always) was this awkward fact: in a city full of old and historic stuff, Anatok was only somewhat notable until recently.  It was not until the demolition of the building was ordered that it got any real attention in the region.

Daniel Rudd (1854-1933) was born at the Anatok estate, as a slave.  A devout catholic, he went on to form the National Black Catholic Congress, as well as "American Catholic Tribune," a publication aimed at African-American Catholic.  
Given the history of the home and its connection to the Catholic faith, it is especially ironic that the home is being demolished to make room for an addition to a Catholic high school, and that the property itself is actually owned by the Church.  Despite this strange reality, plans to level the house were announced by the school.  After a protracted court battle and fund-raising effort failed to produce real results, the demolition of the house was again ordered.  And, here we are today, with the house being leveled.

Before ordering the demolition, the house was used to some degree by the high school, as evidenced by these chairs piled on the porch.

More chairs, stacked on the other side of the same porch.  Some deterioration can be seen in this photo, notably the trim and porch roof.  While ugly, this can be remedied without too much work.
As I understand it, the house and its grounds are to be converted into some sort of outdoor classroom-theatre area.  Basically, the house will be demolished, except for a few feet of its ground floor.  The outline of the building will still exist in brick.  Otherwise, it will be gone.

A shot of one of the sides, showing the chimneys and wrap around porch.  There are a total of four chimneys on the original section of the house.  Note the combination of boarded up and open windows.
The original front doorway has been modified, filled in with the a strange modern door and particle board.
A shot of the rear of the house.  In 1850, the view from these bay windows must have been an strange one, looking out over the surrounding estate land.  Slavery was still legal, the lightbulb had not been invented, and the deadliest war in US history was creeping up on the horizon.   
A close up of the above, showing the rotten wood in more detail.  By most accounts, the house is (was) structurally sound, most of the damage being cosmetic.
Another view of the addition.  Note the metal roof and gabled roof.  Unlike houses built today, nearly every inch of the house was utilized for storage or living space.
Another view of the porch, with old wood planking visible.  In the background is one of the high school buildings.  Originally sitting alone in the middle of a large piece of land, the estate land was sold off over the course of the 20th century.  Today, the area is so developed that the house isn't even visible from the road.
A view into one of the open windows, bordered with interesting brick word.  Again, some damage is visible in this shot.  The Ouerbacker Mansion in Louisville is in a much greater state of decay, but despite this, people are still trying to save it.  Who knows.
A final shot of the mansion, as I want to remember it.  By the time you read these words, it may be gone.

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  1. I would have liked to see pics of the inside

  2. I live near this house. As of 4-11-16 it still stands...open windows and all.

  3. Please don't tear it down ��