A tale of two houses in Kentucky: William Tarr House and Duncan Hall.
A tale of two houses.
When I lived in Lexington, Kentucky for five years, and was free from the restraints of an eight-to-five job, I frequently traveled the back roads of the state, finding new places to photograph and explore on an almost daily basis. There were times when I would pass by a location and say to myself, “I’ll check it out on my next trip.”
Too tired to exit the vehicle and investigate. Getting too dark outside. Classes in the morning. Always some excuse.
One house that I fortunately returned to after a several-year hiatus was the William Tarr House. Constructed for A.J. Hitt in the mid-1860’s, the house was sold to William Tarr prior to 1877. Tarr was a farmer and distiller who operated the Old Tarr Distillery in Lexington.
Tarr updated the original Federal-style residence with Italianate detailing. A two-level ell was constructed in the rear, along with an expansion of the residence.
The house was last used in 1985.
Between my first visit years ago and this trip, much has changed: the rear addition has collapsed.
Another residence, Duncan Hill, constructed in the mid-1850’s, was owned by Major Green Duncan who served in the state legislature and as a sheriff and depot agent. The residence featured brick walls four-deep that were manufactured on-site, massive timber beams, eight rooms with 13-foot ceilings, and a kitchen in an ell. Slave quarters were located across the roadway.
Duncan Hall was abandoned in the early 1990’s.
When I first set my eyes upon this house, I abruptly stopped and pulled by car into a rutted dirt driveway. “No Trespassing” signs were abundant, but it was clear that no one really cared about this stately residence. Courier-Journal newspapers from the 1960’s littered the front porch, and vintage products from the 1980’s stocked the shelves in the kitchen. And it appeared that more vintage furniture and items remained inside, although I only got but a few glimpses from the exterior.
There was seemingly no way to enter the main residence, though. The flooring had rotted through to the basement from the ell to the house via a hallway connecting the two. The basement stair steps had collapsed. And the front porch was non-existent in front of the swinging front door.
I thought I would return soon,. I decided a few nights ago to do some research on what I called just the “Classic-Revival Mansion, but unfortunately, a newspaper article about a “historic 1850’s era residence” being destroyed in a fire cuaght my attention first.
My heart abruptly sank. Was this the same house I briefly encountered years past? I called the local fire department the next day, and it was confirmed that the house that I longed to enter was engulfed in a raging inferno on August 2. The cause was not arson but a lightening strike.