Pioneer dwelling

Log cabin is a piece of history
for sale in Henry County

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

NEW CASTLE, Ky. (July 2006) – The perfect opportunity has arisen for history buffs or preservationists who would like to literally own a piece of history. Located on the edge of the historic commercial district of Main Street in New Castle along a street lined with numerous landmark buildings rests the Pearce-Capito Log House.

James Pearce House

Photo courtesy of Kentucky Trust

The James Pearce House, a circa 1791
log home with this fireplace, is the first
log home built in Henry County.

Also referred to as the James Pearce House, this circa 1791 log home is being offered for sale by the Kentucky Trust for Historic Preservation for $6,000. The house was donated to Kentucky Trust from Bill and Stephany Ivers. It was associated with two prominent Henry County families, the Pearces and the Capitos.
“It was the first log home built in the county,” said Barbara Ann Callahan, New Castle Main Street Manager. The two-story home rests on a 50x52-foot lot at 42 S. Main St., with room for an addition and limited parking.
“According to Maud Johnson’s “History of Henry County,” this house was the first house built in New Castle. James Pearce later built two other log houses on South Main,” said Bob Polsgrove, president of the Kentucky Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Pearce-Capito Log House is a prime example of an urban log house. Log cabins and log houses fall into two distinct categories, houses being more substantially built and found in towns, while cabins dotted county landscapes.
Log houses were constructed for long-term use, and most had weatherboards applied on the outside as part of the original construction or within a decade of being built. Log cabins were oftentimes built hastily and usually as single room homes. The thrift and speed of their construction was the primary attribute of a cabin.
“The house was built by the Pearce brothers who came and settled here when Kentucky was still part of Virginia,” said Bette Peyton, a member of the New Castle Preservation Board. Peyton owns one of the remaining Pearce structures, which houses the Pearce Homestead Crafts and Gift Shop.
Her log cabin is the third oldest in the county and rests on its original site, across the street from the Pearce-Capito Log House. Peyton’s parents owned the house in the 1940s, and because it had been dry walled and siding applied to the exterior, they were unaware that a 150-year-old log cabin lay underneath.
Like her home, the Pearce-Capito Log House has always been a residence, said Peyton. It sat vacant for several years until the city purchased it.
A back addition, that had more than doubled its size, was torn off because of its deteriorating condition. This addition created two rooms on each floor in a saddlebag configuration, 36 feet in length and 19 feet deep.
The log house contains a large central brick chimney with flues in both downstairs rooms, finished mantels, baseboards, chair railing, a hearthside cupboard and most of its original chinking. When the Pearce family completed the home, no logs were visible anywhere on the building; the interior was covered with beaded-edge boards and the exterior with weatherboard.
“A fire damaged the upstairs somewhat,” said Peyton. Most of the damage was to non-historical paneling and drywall materials that had been added long after the house was built.
Its intended use is for individual ownership. But, Peyton said, “It would be nice to have a Welcome Center there – something to create more tourism.”
The New Castle Preservation Trust applied for a Transportation Enhancement Grant to restore the Pearce-Capito Log House “but we did not receive the money,” said Callahan. The grant application suggested other possible uses as housing offices for the Henry County Chamber of Commerce and the New Castle Main Street Manager, and meeting areas for the New Castle Preservation Board and other civic groups.
The buyer will have to rehabilitate and make repairs consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. “We will sell it with a protective deed covenant requiring the buyer and future owners to preserve the historic character of the building,” said Polsgrove.
If the house were placed on the proposed New Castle Historic District plan or listed separately on the National Register of Historic Places, restoration costs for the building would “qualify for a 20 percent tax credit from the federal government and a 20 percent tax credit from the state of Kentucky if used for a business or rental use,” said Polsgrove. “If it is used as a private residence, the state offers a 30 percent tax credit on qualifying certified rehab expenses.”

• For more information, contact Kentucky Trust at (502) 875-1223 or Barbara Ann Callahan at (502) 845-5750.

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