The newspaper’s article on “Houses” was very informative but I would like to add to it. Ameteck would not give the house away until the Heritage Arts and Science Center obtained a 501(C) 3 status from the IRS so their donation would be tax deductible. The “tourism” part of the name was added later in order to obtain the bulk of the funds used in restoration.
I was the second President of the organization — I signed the deed but we had no money. So before our agreement with Ameteck was finalized I arranged to obtain a different appraisal than the original one which was for $75,000. Brooks Wells was a real wheeler dealer real estate agent from Ashland and he gave us an appraisal for $250,000 based on its highest use as a tourism center.
I then went to Ameteck with the new appraisal for their tax deduction and asked for the difference in their taxes ($25,000) to be awarded to us. They agreed but insisted it take place over three years. I then had $8,333 to spend — our first money repainted the house, repaired the roof leaks as well as the green window shutters and secured the upstairs porch which was falling down. Everyone wanted it torn down as being unrepairable. I contacted a house mover from Flatwoods and asked if he could move the porch back to its original position. He did and some of the original beams and posts are visible when you are on the porch looking down into the back yard where the wind mill used to be located.
Yes, the house has two cisterns in the attic and the overflow drain pipe can be seen from the rear of the house sticking out of the wall near the chimney. This was to prevent the wind mill from overflowing the cisterns and water running into the house.
As I remember, all the families wanted the house to bear their name and that’s why we chose the first owner, the builder as the fairest way. Yes, there was a bathroom adjacent to the midpoint of the stairway but had to be removed as it was not part of the original house. The basement has two distinctions — one is the steel bars on the outside of the glass windows and two is the stone-cold type of refrigerator. Refrigerators were not invented until early 1900s.
The McConnell House has its own version made from a carved rock that looks like a coffin with a drain hole near the top. During winter, ice would be gathered from the nearby creek and placed into this carved stone and thus used just like a refrigerator today except then it was “Stone Cold.”
The house has two air conditioning units, one in the basement and one located in the attic by the two cisterns. Part of the roof had to be temporally removed to place the unit into the attic. The stairs in the Travelers room are about 2 feet wide and very steep. The Travelers room is the only room with built-in closets.
There is one building yet to be restored associated with this House and that is called the scale house. This building had a set of scales (now waiting in storage in the basement) that weighed things. Cattle were weighed here before their movement to the market place. Crops were weighed to set a price. Funds are set aside for this buildings restoration. Some of the original building is visible beside the driveway.
There are public restrooms available on the property at the rear of the House, ADA accessible. Basically more than $1 million has been spent on this property since the first $8,333 spent in 1992.
There are only two of the original organizers of the HASC (now HASTC) still active, myself and Terry Fyffe, but the House could not continue to exist without the extraordinary efforts of Bud Matheny, HASTC President. Currently, Bud is getting ready to get the wash room set up and he wants me to bring back the copper wash tubs that I have been storing for 30 years, away from the thieves that Chester Harris was talking about.
Your article tells us a great deal about Chester Harris and his relationship with the McConnell House but doesn’t explain why he may be missing one of his garage chairs. Chet still owns an airplane hangar at Ashland Regional Airport. I believe he has three airplanes in storage and may be there working on one of them. I don’t know who conducted his house tour but their version has to be their own and not from HASTC.
WILLIAM B. SECREST is a The Daily Independent subscriber and regular “In Your View” contributor.