by Don Clare
It is with a big sigh of relief to report that the dismantling, de-nailing, hauling and storing of the surviving materials from the Store are completed. Last Friday we had a general community clean up of the General Store site and a large number of you donated your time and labor to spruce things up and prepare for the next phase.
It is uplifting and cathartic to be rid of all that charred wood, ashes, melted this-and-that. Especially that acrid smell that hides up in your nose and on your hands and clothes. There has been a lot of painstaking planning and preparation to get us to the actual planning and preparation of the next and upcoming phase. If that sounds redundant, it really isn’t. We actually had to meticulously research, plan, get approval for, recommendations for, permission to, meet with, place calls to, send pictures, compare similar needs for, review and study precedents and take inventory of all our tools in our Historic Preservation Toolbox before we could actually begin planning and preparation for the actual restoration.
All of this was possible because of the highly talented and professional services offered us by Gray and Pape, a nationally recognized Heritage Management and Cultural Resource Management Company, which has one of its branch offices right here in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. And since they are a part of our community, they graciously donated their services in the form of Mike Striker, one of the senior partners in the firm, who is acting as Project Manager of the historic restoration of the National Register Rabbit Hash General Store. Mike is a proven veteran in this field and we are so fortunate to be benefitting from his experience and expertise. Mike will be leading our public meeting at the Boone County Extension Service meeting rooms on Rt. 18 Burlington Pike in Burlington on Monday evening, May 16th at 6:30 -7:30 PM. This is called a stakeholders meeting because we were all negatively affected by the tragic loss that the fire caused and we all have a stake in the place that meant so much to all of us, our families and our ancestors. The Rabbit Hash store was part of our collective state and county history and heritage. We want you to know what is going on with the project and answer your questions and concerns and be a part of its successful outcome. You are a stakeholder because out of your unbelievable generosity and support, we have the resources to see this restoration through….be it by your financial donations or your volunteer labor or your donated materials, artifacts and tools. So please make a note of this meeting and join us for the latest updates and information.
The architectural drawings are entering into their final steps of revision and will soon be ready and available to our expert team of building professionals. Harry Sparks, retired owner of the prestigious regional architectural firm, AGI, has also offered his expertise and professional services in preparing the precisely accurate and historically exact renditions of the structure. Harry is also an industry iconic luthier and professional bluegrass guitar player who has performed on the Grand Old’ Opry stage, many years after serving his musical apprenticeship in the Rabbit Hash General Store as a member of the original Rabbit Hash Ramblers. So he knows the importance of that acoustically mellow wooden interior that makes music sound so good and pleasing inside those walls.
Harry will turn over the completed drawings to Ed Unterreiner who will serve as our General Contractor for the project. Many of you know Ed as one of our long time neighbors and expert builder with many, many Rabbit Hash structures under his belt. If you are old enough to remember ‘that modern solar house half way up that hill’, that was Ed’s doing. I am referring to the Peter Schwartz house (now the Licis’) which was one of the Rabbit Hash wonders in the early eighties when the old-timer skeptics were highly amused with the thought of harnessing solar power for anything other than the growth of a tomato plant. Ed also built Foals Paradise ‘up on the hill’, now Beacon House Farm for baby doll sheep. He can also add the Mutt Mitt campus to his list, as well as the owner’s private residence, just up the hill and behind our town. And when Ed is not building major regional BMW showrooms and complexes, he is content with handcrafting is own showcase ‘little house in the country.’ Ed is an instrumental founding member of the Rabbit Hash Hunt Club, affectionately referred to as the Knife and Gun Club.
Just to make things a little more exciting and to up the ante on authenticity, historic accuracy and correctness, and the aesthetic element of beauty and art using the medium of salvaged building materials, we have the mid west’s highly acclaimed master log home and barn builder, Terry Sawyer, who will turn those old beams, rafters, joists and boards into our own “revenant” General Store (The definition of the word revenant is basically something that disappeared from our lives only to mysteriously re-appear at some point in the future. That is what the Rabbit Hash General Store is going to do! Good things take a little time. It has been said many, many times that the Rabbit Hash area of Boone County is the Commonwealth’s highest concentration of removed, rebuilt, restored, rehabbed and retro-fitted log houses. Period. Now, I don’t know the primary source of that statement, nor did I check that statement with Snopes.com, but I do know that the reason for the statement is Terry Sawyer. He most likely would have been the star of that DIY public television show “Barnwood Builders” when it first appeared, but they couldn’t get him to stop working and start yapping about it.
The Rabbit Hash Historical Society is very pleased with our progress thus far and is extremely thankful to all of you for your generosity, support and physical help and assistance. We feel we have the best team possible to get this restoration completed, and we are anxious to step into this next phase. Remember to join us at the public meeting on May 16th.