Monday, December 1, 2014

History Synergy in Cynthiana

Last week, I was witness to something extraordinary in Cynthiana's City Hall. With my previous post, Death of a National Landmark, I outlined the sorry state of our efforts to save Ridgeway, aka, the Handy House. With one vote cast for demolition by the Fiscal Court, we were one vote away from making that order a reality with the meeting of the City Commissioners. If they had voted to agree with the Fiscal Court, demolition would soon take place. But something magical happened on Tuesday that halted such action for the time being. Just note that phrase: "for the time being." The fight is by no means over as the motion that carried only tabled any decision. At some point, a vote and motion will be passed, but we still do not know what that yet might be. We remain cautiously optimistic for Ridgeway, but tremendously hopeful about the state of history/preservation activism in Kentucky!

When the word was spread via word of mouth, social media, local and state press, people got fired up. Locals, regional parties, state officials and national friends joined together to fight for this 200 year old treasure. According to one City Commissioner that night, support was pouring in from all over the country, asking them to save the house for the future generations, and for the nation. Those voices of support made a difference and will live on forever in the annals of history as an example of synergistic activism in the fields of history and preservation.

The most remarkable aspect of the movement surrounding the salvation of Ridgeway was the diversity of age. As the meeting was set to take place, people kept filing into the Commissioners room until there was standing room only. To our delight, the age range of those attending and willing to speak in favor of saving the house stretched across the spectrum. The number of young people involved and in attendance was so encouraging! We are constantly bombarded with statistics and reports about how the younger generations are not as motivated when it comes to history and heritage, but this meeting proved all of that wrong.

To see the various voices step to the podium - from state officials, to local activists and concerned citizens, to descendants of the builder, and to state activists such as Griffin VanMeter - the passion and energy in the room was contagious and exhilarating! By the time everyone had expressed their support - including City Commissioner and Rohs Opera House owner, Roger Slade - folks were hooping it up and hollering for history. When those passionate about saving history have to be shushed by the Mayor, it's a good day!

So far, the motion to table the vote could be temporary. We have not been notified when a vote might come up on the agenda next - and could be as early as next week. However, a couple of things did happen that evening: The HCHC is still pressing for a vote to lease the property to them, allowing them to get started restoring the house. Griffin VanMeter from Kentucky for Kentucky spoke and offered to purchase the property to begin restoration. Many voiced their support through letters, calls, and a line to the podium. It was a beautiful thing - but we have a long way to go. As of the next morning, one of the Commissioners called the HCHC to encourage them to purchase the property instead of Mr.VanMeter, simply to keep the house in the hands of a non-profit group.

As of today, the Lexington Herald-Leader is reporting that several local officials are in favor of the HCHC purchasing the property, but only if we relocate the house out of the park. Personally - not my vote. Relocation is a bad idea, but negotiations have not yet begun. If you didn't get to express your support in saving the house - you still have time to do so and encourage others to follow suit!

Sending a big THANK YOU to those who got involved and voiced your opinion! It truly made a difference last Tuesday! Hopefully the support will continue and we will succeed in saving this treasure!


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