The Kirk Apartments, Maysville, Kentucky

When I was around eight years old, I fantasized about living in an apartment. Just me and my mother (and maybe a dog or two). Apartment buildings seemed so foreign and exotic to me – and as the youngest child, the idea of having my mother all to myself was appealing. I shared this memory with my nephew as we walked by the Kirk Apartments in Maysville, a four-story delight of early 20th century Revival eclecticism.

The Kirk Apartment building in Maysville, Kentucky.

In the spring of 1916, Maysville was a blossoming, bustling city. Burley tobacco filled the city’s coffers – Maysville was home to the world’s largest tobacco warehouse, Home Tobacco Warehouse, constructed in 1912. The city council sought to improve the looks of the city, and private development promised new buildings to meet the needs of the growing town. One of those buildings was the “modern flat building” planned by Mr. E.T. Kirk.

Section of the 1926 Sanborn map showing the Kirk Apartments.

The four story, U-shaped brick building, located on West Second Street, was designed by the firm of C.C. and E.A Weber of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Weber Brothers won the commission to design the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort, Kentucky (built 1912-1914), and worked a great deal in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky.

The recessed entryway to the apartment building, with double doors topped by an arched transom and a handsome craved surround. (And keeping guard is a watchful resident feline.)

The firm McDowell and Case won the contract to construct the building with a bid of $30,000. Although I’ve only ever walked by the building, its footprint would allow plenty of natural light into the rooms – described in a 1914 newspaper article as “modernly-equipped 3-room flats.”

Undated postcard of the Kirk Apartments.

The Kirk Apartments isn’t lodged up against other tall buildings, but sits removed, on a large grassy lot, in a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes (dating from the early 19th century on). The four-story frame gallery, or porches, at the rear of the building, overlooked the Ohio River.

It is a statement of a building, erected at a time when Maysville’s future was bright and busy. Accented with stone, and imposing in scale, the building would have rocketed my childhood daydreams into overdrive.

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  1. W. White says:

    Early 20th Century apartment buildings do seem to conjure up a sense of high-status life, particularly those ensconced in leafy, older residential neighborhoods (The Kirk’s Maysville neighborhood could use more leafy-ness and less vinyl-ness). Only in New York City do “prewar” apartment buildings hold the same cachet among non-historic preservationists as they do among the enlightened. But it seems every town with a population of at least a few thousand has a great prewar apartment building, of better quality than anything constructed since, that has a few devoted admirers.

    I personally could never give up my yard full of “messy trees and ugly weeds” (my neighbors’ “affectionate” terms), but one of my great-grandmothers was the bee’s knees, living in a prewar apartment building (when the building was not very old) located in a leafy, older neighborhood (when it was not very old), driving her Cadillac land yacht around town giving people what for when they deserved it. So I share a love of great old apartment buildings like The Kirk.

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      I would love to carry out a thematic survey of early 20th c. apartment buildings in Kentucky county seat towns – comparing design and site specifics would be fascinating. We didn’t have such an example in my hometown- the only apartments I knew about were above commercial spaces downtown, and the apartment buildings that stirred my desire to run away from the house I grew up in (on a farm) were less-than inspired modern buildings (OK, they were super ugly, but alluring in some way). Lexington has many, most of which house UK students now, given their proximity to downtown and campus.

  2. W. White says:

    You would not happen to know the history behind 210 W. 2nd St. in Maysville. It is a rather striking Greek Revival townhouse with an uncommon piano nobile arrangement and a very intact exterior (as of August 2016), with original windows, cast iron balcony, even the original doorknob on the balcony door. I see a lot of historic buildings (both Google Street View-ing and the old-fashioned way, in person), but one like that certainly peeks my interest more than most.

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      It’s a great one, isn’t it? We included that within a boundary expansion of a NRHP district in downtown Maysville that was listed last year. Let me see what I can find on that one – due to its topography, Maysville has a number of dwellings that take advantage of the hillsides to include that ground floor level.

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