Couple restores 1850s home bought for $1

Paducah Mainstreet is trying to help people afford historic buildings in Paducah.They’re doing that by working with buyers applying for federal and state historic tax credit rehabilitations.

Paducah Mainstreet Director Melinda Winchester says since May, six historic buildings were purchased and are in different stages of the lengthy application process.

The oldest building of that bunch, the Smedley-Yeiser project, was bought for $1 by Levi Kepsel, and his wife Lauren Jackson. The two call themselves historic property developers who have done projects like this before.

“We love re-imagining these old spaces in new ways, and the best way to do that, I think, is to pay homage to the original use of the house,” Jackson said.

They’re pulling out floors originally walked on by Ohio River Boat Captain William Smedley, who lived in the home during the 1850s. Kepsel says the old floors are giant slabs of lumber with a lot of water damage.

“We are going to take flooring of the actual floor that you step on. We are going to reuse that as the new flooring. We are going re-mill that lumber. The beams that it sits on, they’re not long enough anymore. We can’t use them. It’s a tough decision but we are pulling those out," Kepsel said. "But we are going to retain large sections of them, and we are going to use those sections to create a lot of the furniture that’s going to go into the structure,"

Kepsel said they’re trying to re-purpose everything they can. They’re ripping off the wallpaper and repairing the walls to their original lime plaster state. They’re also restoring the windows in Kepsel’s shop. He believes most of the windows were replaced after the flood of 1937.

“We’re doing a hands-on full on restoration. Take them down, find out anything that’s wrong with them, and replace broken glass with this old cylinder glass. We have a stock pile of this stuff, and eventually we will pull these sashes out and do the same thing with those. These will look and operate like new, but they will be from 1850,” Kepsel said.

They’re doing such a complete historic restoration that they’re sending the mortar off from the brick walls to a lab for analysis to make sure the new bricks are historically accurate when repairing the walls.

The couple hopes to rent these rooms as a brunch space or a venue that won’t disturb the neighborhood where it sits.

“We’ve had a great response with the neighbors, really. I think everybody in Paducah has always been watching this house and really sad that it is just sitting here empty,” Jackson said.

The historic tax credit the couple is applying for will give them up to 20 percent back on expenses for the state credit, as well as 20 percent back on expense from the federal tax credit.

They’ve been working on the home for about two months and hope to finish it by next summer.

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