Gardens to Gables

The House Doctor: Remembering Scot Walters

I entered the world of historic preservation fresh from college, armed with my English and Art History degree, a love of old houses – and not much else. I knew virtually nothing. Worse, I really had no concept of how buildings work. Fortunately, I met Scot Walters before I bumbled too far. Scot, with his architecture school  background, well-formed opinions, and colorful descriptions of places, buildings, and people, contributed so much to my knowledge and appreciation of design, the mechanics of historic preservation, and the realities of dealing with leaking roofs, crumbling plaster, and idiot contractors. Scot Walters died yesterday morning, and Kentucky preservation has lost a strident and ardent champion.

Scot.

I am not the person to eulogize Scot. Other people knew him better, worked with him longer, raised all kinds of hell with him. I don’t know that anyone possesses the talent to sum up the sometimes brash and fiery temperament, always keen intellect, and sharp wit that defined him.

I only worked with Scot for four years at the Kentucky Heritage Council (KHC), the State Historic Preservation Office. But I knew him long before that, first as a neighbor, and then as the occasional “House Doctor” for the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation (BGT).

Scot and his good friend, Tom Fugate.

During Preservation Month, the BGT would hold a “House Doctor” Clinic, where for $25 or so, you could reserve an hour with our expert, Scot Walters. I worked for the BGT then, my first job in the preservation field, and accompanied Scot on his house calls.

On the way to and from our various appointments, Scot would hold forth on any number of issues. Sprawl, the evils of the automobile, the difficulties of preservation in Kentucky, beer, music, architects…but when we arrived at the site, he turned quiet and contemplative, clambering all over the house in question, nodding or shaking his head, making notes in his mental filing cabinet, or pointing things out to me. And when we sat down with the homeowner at the end of the session, he addressed their questions or concerns with grave respect and humor.

One older lady, in a ranch house in Lexington, was tremulous and faltering, her fear about her foundation transferring to her shaking hands. Scot handled her fear like he was holding a tiny kitten, kind and thoughtful, assuaging her concerns and writing down exactly what she needed to do next. I learned so much on these occasions, not just that “water is the enemy” and the proper mortar to use with 19th century bricks, but how to deal with all sorts of homeowners with ease, humor, and patience.

Downtown Frankfort.

Scot espoused urban living. I grew up on a farm, and all I want to do is go back there. When he and Marnie bought the Mucci Building in downtown Frankfort, they invited me over to look at the building (this was pre-restoration). I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to live in a commercial building with no yard!

During demolition and restoration work, Scot called to ask me if I wanted some historic bricks. I’m not sure how many bricks I ended up getting, but I toted them around from rental to rental (building patios and then taking them up) until finally carting them home to the farm to use for landscaping efforts. I think I him every time I see those bricks.

Scot transformed the Mucci Building, and then bought the building next door. He was on his way to transforming downtown Frankfort.

Main Street, Frankfort. From the NRHP files.

I’m not sure that I had ever heard the phrase “rat bastard” before I met Scot. When I joined the staff at the KHC in 2005, I got to know Scot not just as a friend and professional, but as a co-worker. Sometimes he made me so mad…and sometimes he made me laugh until I thought I would fall on the floor.

We worked in different program areas at the KHC, but whenever I had a question about a plan, or drawing, or how to handle a particularly demanding architect, I climbed up to the third floor and asked Scot. He always took the time to answer. And if I was being stupid about something, he told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was being stupid.

The most stupid thing of all is that I am writing this – because cancer is stupid and senseless and hotheaded, opinionated Scot fought it like he fought all of his battles – with determination and vigor and stubbornness – and yet he lost.

I hope so much that he knew how much he mattered, and how much he impacted the world around him.

You couldn’t be involved in historic preservation in Kentucky and not know of Scot – or be impacted by his work. Simply put, there would be no state historic tax credit without Scot.

And the successful implementation of the tax credit program, and the many people (and communities) who have benefited from the economic stimulus of the tax credit owe him many, many thanks.

Scot had so much left to do – so many more people to piss off, windmills at which to tilt, and preservation problems to solve. He taught me so much, and likely was quite unaware of that fact. Drink a toast in his honor. Carry on the good fight. Rally for smarter, walk-able town centers, the retention of original windows, good design, and if you get frustrated, just mutter “rat bastard” under your breath.

My deepest sympathies to Marnie, Margi, and the rest of Scot’s family. He will be so deeply missed.

 

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23 Thoughts on “The House Doctor: Remembering Scot Walters

  1. Georgeanne Edwards on April 3, 2017 at 9:23 am said:

    Scot knew everything! What a nice guy and a big loss for preserving the history of Kentucky. He will be missed.

  2. Thank you so much for a beautiful eulogy which allows those of us who did not know Mr. Walters to understand his many contributions. I send condolences to all who loved him. His was truly a life well anc fully lived.

  3. Thank you so much for a beautiful eulogy which allows those of us who did not know Mr. Walters to understand his many contributions. I send condolences to all who loved him. His was truly a life well anc fully lived.

  4. Jim McKeighen on April 3, 2017 at 10:18 am said:

    What a huge loss for preservation in Kentucky. I worked with Scott on getting a preservation tax credit for my house in Lexington & always gave his name to clients who were interested in big projects that could use a tax credit to make them happen. I am so sad…..

  5. Wow so beautifully written. I didn’t even know him and I miss him. Thank you for your expression of love and friendship.

  6. Rogers Barde on April 3, 2017 at 11:54 am said:

    Thank you for a beautiful memorial. I am sorry that I didn’t know him – he was a fine man to know.

  7. Linda Shumate on April 3, 2017 at 1:36 pm said:

    I knew Scot, grew up in a very small town with Wayne, Scot’s Dad. This whole family is special to me. I enjoyed this article so much. Thanks for writing this. My heart is hurting forLivvy, brothers Matt and Todd and especially for his wife and daughter. Rest In Peace Scot, no more pain.

  8. Lucinda on April 3, 2017 at 1:42 pm said:

    I am not sure my cousin knew how much he was respected or loved. So grateful you wrote this article. Thank you for sharing your memories

  9. Bill Weyland on April 3, 2017 at 2:01 pm said:

    Scot had a great passion for design, urban planning, and preservation. He had a great impact and has left an important legacy. Thank you for your eloquent memorial.

  10. Marnie on April 3, 2017 at 2:59 pm said:

    Thank you! Scot would have loved this piece.

  11. Bob McWilliams on April 3, 2017 at 3:36 pm said:

    I second those earlier comments about this moving tribute. Wish I had met the guy. I hope others will continue to fight the restoration fight.

  12. Joe Brent on April 3, 2017 at 4:24 pm said:

    It seems to me that I was nearly on my way out the door when Scot arrived at the KHC. I don’t know how many years we cohabited on Washington Street. But in the words of Becky Shipp Scot was one of the good guys. I worked with Scot on the restoration of the West-Metcalfe House in Wayne County and on Oak Grove at plantation house near Dunn, North Carolina. Architecture was never my thing and honestly when I think of Scot I don’t really think of an architect, I think of one the most outrageous people I’ve ever known and I mean that in the best way possible. I drank alot beer with Scot, which was always a truly wonderful experience. We always had fun talking about DLM. I cannot imagine the grief his family must feel. He will be missed.

  13. Amy Ellis on April 3, 2017 at 5:10 pm said:

    Beautifully written, I only met Scot twice but he gave me much insight into my new career. He answered many questions as I began this new occupation. My sincere condolences to his co-workers and family.

  14. John King on April 3, 2017 at 7:26 pm said:

    So sorry to hear this. Scot has given me advice many times. He was a great guy so thanks for writing this about him. He will be missed.

  15. Carol on April 3, 2017 at 8:56 pm said:

    I didn’t know Scot, but your words make me wish I had. Thanks Janie-Rice.

  16. Alexandra Weldon on April 3, 2017 at 11:51 pm said:

    Oh, it has been a few years since I have actively worked with Scot; ‘rat bastard’ brought back all of the of camaraderie, mutual respect, candor, silliness, and wild times. Thank you so much for sharing your heart.

  17. Barbara Hulette on April 4, 2017 at 7:55 am said:

    Well done ,good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.–Matthew 25.

    A soul occupied with great ideas best performs small duties..nothing too small or too large for Scot as he has touched our souls and his good works live forever.

    Scot gave the rest of us the courage to go forward. I thank him for that.

    Blessings to his family. Love and sympathy.

  18. Old Thompson Farm on April 5, 2017 at 9:06 am said:

    He was such a help to us with our renovation. So sorry to hear he lost his fight.

  19. What a lovely tribute. Living so far away we were shocked and this was a nice way to remember all those great times, I’d almost forgotten about the House Doc at the the BGT!

  20. Derek Brooks on April 6, 2017 at 9:22 am said:

    I knew Scot for a long time, my wife Teresa knew him longer. They went to architecture school together, and Venice. This perfectly encapsulates all that Scot was. Thank you.

  21. Ashley Musgrave Rushing on April 6, 2017 at 10:07 am said:

    I had the honor of being a classmate of Scot at UK, Architecture class of 1993. I am sure all of his fellow students and professors will agree that he was an exception to the rules of college students. He seemed more focused, more adult, and a lot more happy all of the time. He didn’t have any of the “average or dare I say normal” vices of college students at the time. And whenever I saw him in school he was always projecting happiness. Can’t say the same for many of us, it was at times a grueling education. However. In early 2000, I ran into Scot again. I was volunteering with BGT, and he told me all about Frankfort and the buildings he planned to renovate. His energy for preservation issues and buildings was not matched by anyone, architect or other in my memory. The Commonwealth is a better place because of him. And those of us who knew him, long ago or for his lifetime we are blessed. This article is excellent and my thoughts are with his family. I hope they find extra strength in his work, his memory and how far it is spread across time and space. Also, I am sure they know so much more than I could ever about what a great life he lived. May we all tey to be a bit more like Scot, and remember to preserve what we have on this earth.

  22. mick jeffries on April 6, 2017 at 1:18 pm said:

    very appreciative of this writing. thank you so much.

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