Historical Society seeks spot on National Register of Historic Places

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer/awarren@messenger-inquirer.com Judith Moseley Ralph, director of the Whitesville Historical Society, stands in front of the James L. Stinnett house shorty after it was purchased by the society in 2017. On Oct. 22 Ralph along with Society Board Secretary Jackie Bickett and Treasurer Barry Moseley will travel to Frankfort to present why they believe that the historic structure should gain entrance to the National Register of Historic Places.

Members of the Whitesville Historical Society are headed to Frankfort on Oct. 22 to attempt to get a property on the coveted National Register of Historic Places.

The pilgrimage will include Society Board Secretary Jackie Bickett, Treasurer Barry Moseley and Director Judith Ralph who will be giving a five-minute presentation to the review panel of the Kentucky Heritage Council, said Daviess County Clerk and society President Leslie McCarty.

"They will be presenting the James L. Stinnett House for consideration," she said. "It takes time to prepare everything that the council requires for consideration we have been working on it for over a year now. You have to prove that the property has significance. We think that it does. The Stinnett family has been involved in Whitesville forever and I would say that James Stinnett is definitely one of the forefathers of Whitesville. He was founder and president of the Whitesville bank, a tobacconist and he had a lot of ties throughout the region and the state."

The society purchased the Victorian style home, known locally as the Kelley House, for $97,000 in 2017 with the goal of restoring it into a museum accurately depicting life in the town during the mid-1800s. However, before it can house anything, the society has to restore it --- a project that the council will have under a microscope if it is accepted onto the register, said Bickett.

"Our first goal is stabilizing the structure so there isn't any further deterioration," she said. "Right now we are estimating that cost to be roughly $150,000. Everything in the restoration has to be accurate. We can't just buy vinyl siding or replacement windows or brick. Everything has to be authentic from that period. If we are accepted, everything we do will have to be approved through the register before we can move forward. That is a good thing because they can put us in the right direction of possible funding. We are also depending on donations, so we hope people in and around the community will be excited by the project."

There are three invaluable perks to gaining entrance onto the register, she said.

"The first is that we would be eligible for tax credits," she said. "I'm not sure how that works yet but we will find out as we move along in the process of the restoration. Second, we are more likely to get grants and finally, we will know that we have a house on the register. I'm feeling pretty confident. I think we have a beautiful house that is a good example of Queen Anne style Victorian architecture."

Another exciting aspect to the society's ever growing "learning campus" is the ongoing construction of the Burton Cabin adjacent to the Martin House (society headquarters) on Kentucky 54 next to Cecil's Funeral Home. The cabin, originally built by Bassett Burton in 1810, is an Eagle Scout project undertaken by 15-year-old Trinity High School student Kristopher Howard and his fellow Boy Scouts, led by Scoutmaster Bob Cinnamond. All of these historic structures have a great opportunity to be a boon for Whitesville, especially if they can get on the register, McCarty said.

"With us doing all of this and with the cabin, it could be a great history learning campus with three different places highlighting the lifestyle of early Whitesville," she said. "It could be great source for economic development and revitalization for the town. These pieces of history can be a great focal point for the community. We know these projects will be something people can take pride in."

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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