I fall in love with a different house (or sometimes a commercial or industrial building) at least once a week. Madly, passionately, head-over-heels in love, with blissful, giddy thoughts of scraping paint, refinishing floors, and restoring the overgrown yard to my platonic ideal of an English Cottage Garden in Kentucky. My latest crush is the historic Smedly-Yesier House in the Lowertown neighborhood of Paducah.
Lowertown is Paducah’s oldest neighborhood, annexed by the city in 1836. In 2002, Paducah embarked on a creative revitalization plan of the Lowertown district (chock full of amazing historic buildings, but somewhat neglected since the mid-20th century) with its Artist Relocation Program. Vacant lot in Lowertown? Historic houses that need some love? For $1, the city said, it can be yours if you stay here, produce art, and fix up the building (or build something on that lot). And it has worked – getting all sorts of national and international attention as a model for using the arts to promote economic development, and transforming Lowertown.*
The Smedly-Yeiser House is still waiting…(and I am not holding my breath that it will be me who will transform this lovely Greek Revival house). Built for a wharfboat captain and commission merchant named Captain William Smedley betwen 1854 and 1871 (I would say late 1850s, early 1860s), the house was later owned by two-time Paducah mayor David Yeiser.
The three-bay wide facade is dominated by the central entry door, which is a celebration of the Greek Revival. Sidelights, transom, pilasters, inset panels, dentils – OK, I know I sound infatuated. But the door pops out in stark relief to the otherwise restrained facade ( made even more so by the low profile of the one-story brick house), and it makes me want to sing!
I am now attempting to brainstorm various plans that will turn me into an artist. Also, I need a job in Paducah while I develop my artistic talents. Suggestions or donations are welcome – I already have a grand vision of the garden I will install, and multiple glasses of lemonade that will enjoyed on the broad front porch…
* A great story about the Artist Relocation Program was on NPR in 2013.