Work on the historical Neal Building in downtown Carlisle will take another step forward under terms of a contract that the Nicholas County Historical Society is signing with Wally Thomas Construction of Ewing.
Work, set to be completed by summer, will allow the society to open that portion of the building that will serve as a community welcome center.
Cost of the construction phase will be between $300,000 and $327,000, with the final amount still in negotiation.
The historical society, together with its architectural firm, Fitzsimmons Office of Architecture of Lexington, has spent several months in planning for the latest contract. The work will combine the provision of basic infrastructure necessary for a public building with such interior work as heating, air conditioning, plumbing and lighting for the welcome center portion.
New bathrooms also will be added for the convenience of visitors.
The big ticket items in the contract include a sprinkler system for the entire building, said Historical Society President Carol Garvin. This is an expensive system to install, but provisions of our federal grant require such safety features for places where the public is going to gather.
The good part of this, she continued, is that it will allow a significant reduction in the cost of insurance.
The sprinkler system will require installation of a four-inch water line in the building.
The welcome center will be operated by volunteers from both the Nicholas County Historical Society and Carlisle - Nicholas County Tourism, Inc. It will be open initially three days per week.
The welcome center will be a recreation of the country store atmosphere that existed when the Neal Building was operated by the Neal family.
The late Gene Neal, last owner of the family business, was known not only for his general store products but for his enthusiasm for county history, a congenial atmosphere and interesting artifacts. Both visitors and community residents will be welcomed into an area that echoes those days, right down to the semi-circle of rocking chairs.
We will provide information for visitors, said Carol Garvin, but we really want the center to reflect our community. We want people from other places to come in and see our people in action.
A variety of activities and programs for all ages and interests are projected. Historical society board members are soliciting suggestions from the community about what people would like to see happening in the Neal Building.
When renovation of the entire building is completed, it will include not only the welcome center but also a museum and an arts area.
The arts area will utilize the space upstairs that once was Mozart Hall, which operated from 1883 until 1902 offering various kinds of entertainment, often provided by traveling shows. It also was the scene of community gatherings and graduation ceremonies.
When work is completed, the space will be available for rental, catered events, wedding receptions, etc. This phase of the work will be paid with funds from the second of two Transportation Enhancement grants provided to the historical society, passed through the City of Carlisle. Grants are federally funded, but are administrated by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
The 20 percent match required by the $240,000 grant is being paid with funds raised by the historical society through pledges and donations.
People with Nicholas County ties, both here and far away, have been incredibly generous, said Carol Garvin. Without their help, the historical society could not have undertaken such an ambitious project.
She note also that the historical society has been invited to apply for a 2006 Transportation Enhancement grant to complete the project.