Sunday, November 28, 1999

A really old Kentucky home

Log house once owned by artist Caroline Williams needs loving care

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Carol Hunt Chamberlain at the Williams log house.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        “She has a passion for old architecture. She weeps when a building goes.” Kentucky author Jesse Stuart wrote that about artist Caroline Williams in a 1970 Enquirer article.

        For almost 50 years, Miss Williams sketched pictures of old Tristate buildings and favorite scenes. More than 1,000 of her drawings were published on the Sunday Enquirer editorial page. Because so many of the buildings that she drew were demolished, she often had reason to weep.

        If she were alive today, she would be weeping now. Her own beloved home near Burlington is threatened.

        “A lot of people want this property, but they want to take the house down,” says Carol Hunt Chamberlain, director of the Dinsmore Homestead Foundation, which owns the house.

        “When the last member of the Williams family died, the attorneys for the estate sold the property except for about four acres and the house, which they gave to us,” Ms. Chamberlain says.

        The Dinsmore Homestead, a historic 1842 house and farm, is about six miles from the Williams log house. “We would love to keep it (the Williams house), but there is so much going on on our site that it is too much to maintain,” she says.

        The building is a traditional 19th-century Kentucky log house and one of the few such dwellings left in Northern Kentucky.

        It stands just below the rim of a steep, south-facing hill, at the top of a gravel drive. (Building on a hillside is common in Kentucky, where flat land was reserved for crops.) The nearby pond is a favorite hideaway for a great blue heron. A small cemetery is at the top of the hill, with gravestones dating to the 1880s. This suggests that a family was living there in the last century.

        The log house has two square rooms on each of two floors, with a one-room frame addition serving as a kitchen.

        A gap in the logs between the rooms, now filled in, suggests it was a dog trot house, a style of folk architecture, with an open passage between the two square halves, possibly for ventilation or to reduce damage from a severe fire.

        Dog trot log houses were built in Kentucky from 1830 to 1890. They were called dog trot because they were built as two square sections under one roof with an open path, or “dog trot” between them. The path served to ventilate the house.

        Tenants lived in the house until a year ago. It stands empty and in need of a person or organization to adopt it.

        “We at Dinsmore could not stand by and let it be torn down,” Ms. Chamberlain says, “but it needs more attention than we can give it. We're hoping to sell it to someone who would care for it and restore it.”

        The Dinsmore Homestead Foundation, 5656 Burlington Pike, Box 453, Burlington, Ky. (606) 586-6117.

Log home perfect for artist's press

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