I’ve never kept track of how many abandoned and moldering rural houses I’ve encountered over the years. But though I might not know the number, if you show me a photograph, I can almost always tell you exactly where the house was located.
This dwelling, built sometime after the Civil War – probably the 1870s – was on its way out when I encountered its sad visage. The industrial revolution allowed the mass production of balloon framing materials; these inexpensive and readily available materials transformed domestic architecture in the last quarter of the 19th century.
Less skilled craftsman could build larger houses with standardized lumber and nails. The two-story central passage I-house, which made its mark on the rural Kentucky landscape decades earlier as the type built by successful farmers, could be replicated with less money and in a shorter period of time.
But one generation’s symbol of progress and attainment becomes another’s drafty, out-dated eyesore. In the years following the expansion of home ownership after World War II, ranch houses – sleek, modern, and new – replaced mid-19th century farmhouses all across the Commonwealth. Mobile homes followed suit in the ranch houses’ wake.
This dwelling incorporated a central cross gable on the facade (a nod to the Gothic Revival style), and had interior gable end chimneys. Sometime in the 1920s or 1930s, the windows were replaced with Craftsman-style sashes, and a new porch, with brick piers, replaced the original. The one-story, one room ell addition had porches on either side.
Layers of wallpaper covered plaster walls on the interior (the only insulation the house had), and four panel doors led to the two rooms on each floor of the main house. The staircase, barely visible in the photograph above, had a chunky, Victorian era newel post.
The three porches on the house afforded views of flat, fertile fields, high above the Ohio River. It is likely that the only trace left of this dwelling left (unless it has withstood the rigors of wind and water better than I think) would be the cut stone foundation, or merely depressions in the earth.