The James Harrod Trust for Historic Preservation in Harrodsburg and Mercer County was formed in 2000 by local citizens concerned about the demise of many historic sites and homes in our community. According to our bylaws, our mandate is to protect and promote the cultural, natural, historical, architectural, and archaeological heritage of Harrodsburg and Mercer County to enhance the quality of life for this and future generations. Armed with our 501c3 non-profit status, we became a membership-driven organization, gaining our sustainability.
Our first preservation project was to complete a transportation grant from the Kentucky Heritage Council to restore the Thomas Logan House, one of the earliest brick structures in Mercer County, located at the current Anderson Dean Park, now the park office.
Encouraged by this success, we applied for another transportation grant from the Kentucky Heritage Council to develop a walking/driving tour, complete with signage and short history of the many historic sites and pioneer stations in Harrodsburg/Mercer County. The completion of this grant took a few years, due to the manpower needed to conduct the research. It was a labor of love!
While this grant was being completed we also bought the Judge James Haggin house, which was built in 1810 but had been neglected and divided into apartments.
Our goal was to restore this home to use for our "home" and special events. At the same time we were gifted money to purchase the 1880s Dedman Drugstore of Main Street. Both of these structures had a majority of original fabric and treasures that needed our love!
We applied for grants, got loans, and involved our members, but within a few years, both were more than we could handle. We posted the sale of the Haggin House on HistoricProperties.com for much less than we paid. It sold, sight unseen, within a month to a family who restored it themselves.
The philanthropic Mr. Ralph Anderson paid the mortgage we had on the drugstore and we advertised for someone interested in renting it for a coffee shop/soda fountain or a small restaurant. We found a wonderful couple, Tim and Jennifer Kazimer, who ram it as the very successful Kentucky Fudge Company in the restored Dedman Drugstore. Within two years they bought the building and have enlarged and made created new productive businesses on Main Street.
We were gifted with the McAfee Cemetery, the pioneer cemetery of the earliest settlers in our county, and the Greenville Springs, the last remnant of medicinal springs first of the famed spas of Harrodsburg. We maintain these properties.
We have published books the books Men of Mercer County and Women of Mercer County. These books are memories of relatives or influential people written by local citizens. We published a booklet of poems penned by our poet laureate, Louise Dean.
Realizing the importance of historic surveys to document and record our historic fabric, we funded surveys of rural outbuildings and historic streets which received National Register designation.
We surveyed the African American cemetery, Maple Grove, finding many unmarked graves and noteworthy graves of Buffalo Soldiers, WWI veterans and remarkable citizens of our past. Realizing that we needed to know more we applied and received an Oral History grant from the Kentucky Historical Society. Our lesson here was: there are so many more oral histories that need to be recorded!
In recent years, we have bought or been gifted two other historic properties that have sold: the Pulliam/Curry House (1857) and the Pawling House (1815).
Besides depending on our successful yearly membership drive we have tried many successful and not-so-successful fund-raising efforts: garden tours, sock hops, printed calendar of historic sites, porch tours, and small themed dinners. However, our most successful have been our Award Dinners, honoring local citizens who have shown their dedication to the historic preservation through maintaining properties or written research, and our annual Cemetery Tour.
The tour is conducted in the Spring Hill Cemetery, with visitors from Maple Grove Cemetery and McAfee Cemetery. On these tours, stories and histories are told by actors depicting interesting characters from our local past. (Our own board members often join in to play a part!)
We have partnered with many organizations, including Harrodsburg Historical Society, Harrodsburg First (our Main Street Organization), Kentucky Heritage Council, Kentucky Historical Society, and Dry Stone Conservancy to advance and encourage preservation in our community.
We have had many successes and a few disappointments, ie, demolition of important structures. But we would not have survived without the guidance and partnerships of many organizations and a wonderful dedicated membership. Our board has an impressive mix of individuals who are passionate about Harrodsburg heritage and preservation -- whether that is through printed word, oral histories, cemetery tours and saving our historic structures.
If you are interested in learning more, or helping us achieve our mission, contact us for more information.