Kentucky Museum receives grant to restore historic building

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The Kentucky Museum has received a $36,000 grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation to support restoration of the historic Felts House, located on Western Kentucky University’s main campus.

Constructed in 1810 in Logan County, Ky., the Felts House was the home of Archibald Felts, a Revolutionary War veteran who was among the first generation of permanent settlers in Kentucky. The two-story, four-room home remained among Felts’ direct descendants for 150 years. In 1968, Felts’ great-granddaughter Ollie Felts sold the cabin and the Felts farm. Recognizing the historic integrity and value of the cabin, the new owner offered the cabin to WKU, and the cabin was moved to campus for use by the Kentucky Museum.

In 1991, the cabin was analyzed by the Kentucky Historical Society. At that time, Dr. Lynwood Montell, Director of the Department of Intercultural and Folk Studies, noted, “Craftsmanship as evidenced in the Felts House is as high as or higher than other known southcentral Kentucky log houses. The use of a pegged or chamfered scab to attach the top plate to the next lower log is unique in this geographical area.”

The Museum uses the Felts House as a living history classroom where visitors and school groups can see and interact with daily life in the early 19th century. Artifacts inside the house are replicas of those used in rural Kentucky, allowing hands-on presentations and direct engagement with local history.

“The vision of the Kentucky Museum is to be a gathering place for our campus and community to come to know and celebrate who they are as individuals and Kentuckians in the 21st century.” said Brent Bjorkman, Director of the Kentucky Museum and Kentucky Folklife Program. “The Felts House remains a revered touchstone for sharing the history and culture of southcentral Kentucky and we are grateful to the Carpenter Foundation for assisting us in this major way to secure the physical integrity of this venerated teaching space.”

Recent analysis has revealed the cabin is in critical condition. Andy Mills of the American Antique Cabin Company, one of the top consultants nationwide in antique log restoration, has developed a restoration plan for the Felts House that will begin in early 2020. The cabin will be restored using period-appropriate materials that will also protect it long into the future. The project will offer opportunities for WKU students to view and engage with historic preservation in action and will provide a unique opportunity to learn from a prominent professional.

“We are thrilled to work with the American Antique Cabin Company to preserve this unique treasure,” said Tiffany Isselhardt, the Museum’s Development and Marketing Manager. “Historic places provide us a sense of who we are and help us connect to previous generations—showcasing how different, yet similar, our lives are today. We cannot thank the Carpenter Foundation enough for their support of the Felts House. It truly enhances our ability to serve our campus and community.”

The Carpenter Foundation grant will provide 80 percent of the funds needed to restore the Felts House. Isselhardt said the Museum will seek additional sponsors and donations to achieve full restoration.

This is the second grant the Kentucky Museum has received from the Carpenter Foundation. In 2018, the Kentucky Museum received a grant to offer free admission to the public for three years. The Carpenter Foundation was established in 1975 by E. Rhodes Carpenter. The Richmond, Va., based company, now known as Carpenter Co., has a location in Russellville, Ky.