by Don Clare
The reason I have not posted a blog update recently is because pictures are worth a thousand words and that was best accomplished by posting on face Book. Daily posts with photos helped to keep everyone up close and personal with the progress of the restoration of the Rabbit Hash General Store.
Yesterday, we reached a very important milestone in this unprecedented restoration. The completion of the billboard sign and the application of Sprite, the vintage Coca Cola mascot, was the crowning jewel or the icing on the cake of the completion of the historic façade of our beloved iconic centerpiece of the Rabbit Hash, Kentucky National Register District.
When dealing with a National Register Structure, it is the exterior façade of the structure that satisfies the requirements for National Register eligibility. The dedicated craftsmen of Rivertown Construction Inc made sure that every detail, method of construction, fabric and material were as close to original as was humanly possible. In this, they exceeded beyond requirement by the Department of Interior’s Guidelines for Historic Preservation. They took this restoration very personally. They are to be highly commended and praised for their unique professional approach to a seemingly impossible task and project. I feel certain that some award will eventually come their way and they will be regarded on a national level.
The decision to allow the damaged Rabbit Hash General Store to be restored and retain its National Register status required the consent and cooperation of a myriad of national, state-wide, and local regulatory bodies. With approximately seventy-five percent of its original state still standing, the historic mercantile structure filled the requirements for a restoration, which is semantically much different than renovation, rehabilitation, rebuilding, retrofitting, remodel and all the similar such words. This project is a restoration. As it stands right now, it fits all the requirements of the Department of Interior and is considered to be its former National Register Structure.
Now, the caveat. Just because the General Store appears to be its old self does not mean we are finished, nor close to opening for business. It would be a fair estimation to say it is about one third complete. Our goal, since day one of the foundation work, after all the necessary permits were issued and in-hand, has been to get the exterior completed and the building completely closed up before cold weather set in. That happened this morning! Talk about meeting a deadline. Had it not been for the unusually mild November weather, the exterior would not have been painted until Spring, and, of course, the billboard sign would still be a wish. It would be safe to say that the official opening will coincide with the 2017 Old Timers Day celebration. Hopefully we will be planning a week-long celebration of festivities, food, music and fun. So, stay tuned.
Many people believe in many different things, but I am convinced that providence had a major hand in this entire project and process. Call it God’s will, Karma, voodoo, black magic, a miracle, coincidence or whatever you like, but for some reason the stars and the planets aligned just right for what eventually happened.
The interior work will begin on Monday. I am calling this Phase Three (foundation Phase One; exterior Phase Two) and it will be the most time consuming of all three. There is a lot tedious, intricate and detailed carpentry work involved in the flooring, walls, ceilings trim and shelving throughout the three rooms. We are poised and postured to treat the interior of the building in the very same manner as the exterior, using as much original material as we can, complemented by similar, vintage material and using the same period-appropriate construction techniques. Doing the interior in this manner is not required in order for the store building to remain on the National Register. We are doing it this way because she deserves it! So, once again I say, “good things take a little time, a little bit of yours and a little bit of mine.” (From a song by Dan’l Wilson, one-time General Store proprietor).
In addition to all of this interior restoration, we will also be installing electrical; furnace and ductwork HVAC; special watertight dense-cell spray foam insulation and traditional attic insulation; a fire suppression system; a state-of –the-art walk-in cooler with removable, external compressor (in the event of a flood); and a new(er) Rabbit Hash Iron Works wood stove and stove pipes (courtesy Louie Scott). That’s not all. In order to complete the restoration, one coat of primer and two coats finish everywhere except the (original) floors.
There is one other thing that needs to be addressed here. Right after the fire and during the fundraising stages of this project, there was a lot of evil, unfair, and cruel accusations leveled against the Rabbit Hash Historical Society as a board, as well as against certain individual members. Several unnecessary bridges were burned, never to be rebuilt. Despite cruel and demeaning accusations about the funds raised for this restoration and degrading the integrity of our organization and its members, we persevered and carried on as our hearts, souls, passion and conscience dictated. This was culminated yesterday by the topping off ceremony. As president of the Rabbit Hash Historical Society, I can personally give account and proof of every penny raised in our name and every penny spent in the name of this unprecedented historic preservation undertaking.
Have a loving and blessed Thanksgiving and a very happy and Merry Christmas….