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March 22, 2006

Work progressing on Neal building
Article from Nicholas News
By Robert Garvin

Neal Building Restoration
The work being done on the front of the Neal Building is the final step in the first phase of Nicholas Co. Historical Society’s project to restore this great 19th century building to its original look and for use as a visitor center.This first phase was exterior work and basic infrastructure: a new roof, re-pointing all the brick, repair of decorative cornice, repair of all upstairs windows and installation of a new electrical service. This last step of this phase is to restore the facade of the building to the way it looked when J.T. Sims opened it in 1883.

Interestingly enough, the we were able to reuse a lot of the original doors and doorframe material which we found stored in the basement.

The facade of the building has been restored by a local craftsman, Raymond McLaughlin, who lives out at Lake Carnico and is being installed by our contractor, Wally Thomas of Ewing.

When this exterior work is completed the upper half of the ground floor will be restored as a “Country Store” reception area for the Welcome Center with bathrooms and a food service area. We hope to have it open by this summer.

We are applying for another TEA-21 grant to restore the other side of the ground floor as an exhibit/display area and the upstairs as a presentation area.

These Federal grants require support of the local government and the Mayor and City Council have been extremely helpful and encouraging as you saw Monday night.

The Historical Society has to match 20 percent of the grant award. We have had an overwhelming response to our 2003-2005 pledge drive. We have received $175,000 of the $185,000 pledged.

We received contributions not only from local residents but also from Carlisle natives all over Kentucky and 16 other states that fondly remembered “Mr. Neal’s store” and did not want to see it fall into disrepair. As Bob Sparks so aptly put it “this shows you what a community can do when its citizens and natives work together positively and constructively.”

Of course the major contributor was Dorothy Neal who donated the Neal Building to the Historical Society in 2003.

She and Gene Neal were founding members of the Society and Mr. Neal was Treasurer for many years.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The Nicholas County Historical Society, in partnership with the City of Carlisle, will complete restoration of the 1883 Neal Building, begun with TE ‘04 and TE ‘05 funds. The 10,000 square foot, two-story Neal Building on Highway 36 in the designated Historic District of downtown Carlisle, will provide a reception center and Transportation/Tobacco Culture exhibit and presentation area for visitors drawn from Scenic Highway 68.

The highway, which now runs within 2.5 miles of Carlisle, has plans approved for improvement and relocation to bring it even closer. Since there is no welcome/rest center on Highway 68 between Lexington and Maysville, the facility will meet a significant need, while encouraging tourism in economically deprived Nicholas County. The facility will be jointly staffed and operated by the Historical Society and Carlisle/Nicholas County Tourism.

One wing of the center’s first floor will provide a reception area, rest rooms, and information within the country store atmosphere, which prevailed there for many years.

Brochures, maps, restaurant guides and other information will be available with volunteers providing guidance and personal insights. An adjacent wing will house exhibits related to Carlisle as an early transportation and mercantile center on the old Limestone Road and L&N Railroad connecting Lexington and Maysville (Limestone). It will trace the rise and fall of Carlisle’s role as a major tobacco marketing and distributions center. It will also house a family history/genealogical library for visitor information and research.

The 5,000 square foot upstairs area will be restored to its 1883 beginning as Mozart Hall, a location for traveling road shows (complete with period posters and broadsides recovered from the walls) and community gatherings. This assembly area will be used for exhibitions and presentations to visitors and tour groups, as well as much needed community meeting and educational space.

The building, when fully operational, will impact the community’s economy by allowing much improved access to information for visitors. Although county residents, and those far away with ties to their birthplace, are fiercely loyal to Nicholas County and its history, there is not full appreciation of our heritage’s riches or their attractiveness to outsiders. The Neal Building will afford an educational opportunity for our own people, encouraging them to find ways of using our history for personal and community profit.

INTENDED USE: The Neal Building will be used as a welcome center for visitors from Scenic Highway 68. Local volunteers will provide a welcome, information and guidance, as well as genealogical research information, a primary interest for many visitors. Local residents will also be free to visit the center for a variety of informational programs. They will be encouraged to interact with visitors to provide living testimony to the history and culture of our community. The county’s past and present relationship to surface transportation, particularly the transportation of tobacco and other farm products, will be emphasized.

Nicholas County, while limited in resources, has a true wealth of historic and scenic places which have not yet been used to benefit the community. The Neal Building will give us the opportunity to demonstrate the economic potentials of heritage tourism.

We envision activities within the building, which will attract all ages and interests within our community. This will help us demonstrate to the wider world the nature and the gifts of our people.

We plan to have a variety of programs and expect to place particular emphasis on those for, and by, our children and young people. We also plan to partner with other community groups and individuals to provide stimulating learning opportunities. For example, we will work with the Courthouse Arts Guild, our community arts group, to produce art and craft exhibits.

We plan to have a media center where we can showcase locally produced video productions, such as the work of high school students, as well as other media materials from the wider world.

To help maintain the center, we will have a small sales area offering locally made products.

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