Reviving a historic building

Restoration of Dutch meetinghouse
nearly complete in Pleasureville

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

PLEASUREVILLE, Ky. (May 2005) – For Sam and JoAnn Adams, owning a piece of local history seemed like a dream come true. When the framework of the Six Mile Meetinghouse was uncovered close to their farm and donated to the Kentucky Trust for Historic Preservation, they made a bid on the structure and embarked upon a journey into the past.

Kit Ehrman

Photos provided

New owners Sam and
JoAnn Adams hope to have restoration completed for the
May 21 dedication.

Once their bid was accepted, the Adams began the process of reconstructing the building and restoring it to its original form. They relied on Burks Woodworks to accomplish most of the handcrafted work and on Trust officials to supply them with research material on the history of the meetinghouse.
The meetinghouse was built around 1824 by members of the Low Dutch Colony, adjacent to Hwy. 421, one mile southeast of Pleasureville. After a new brick church was built in Pleasureville in 1857, the meetinghouse was moved a short distance from its original site and converted to a barn.
The Low Dutch settlers traveled from New Jersey and New York to Kentucky, where they could live together in a communal setting. One of their main desires was to preserve their traditions and culture.
During the 1780s, the Low Dutch settlers acquired about 9,000-acres from Squire Boone, who had established Painted Stone Station in nearby Shelby County. Approximately 55 percent of the land is in present day Henry County, and 45 percent in Shelby County. The colony thrived until the 1830s, a time known as “the Exodus,” when a sizable portion of the colony sold their land and moved to Lexington, Ind. A substantial percentage of people in Henry County today descend from the Low Dutch colony.
Several public events are planned for May 21. A dedication ceremony is planned for 11 a.m. at the meetinghouse, followed by a tour of the site led by architectural historian David Hall and Bryant Burke. Hall, a Trust board member, will assist Burke in describing the details and features of the meetinghouse.
Box lunches will be available for a small charge. Tickets for the tour and lunch are $25 for members of the Trust and $35 for non-members. At 12:30 p.m., those assembled may travel to a Low Dutch House in the area where attendees can view some of the details common to Low Dutch construction.
Although the Adams haven’t proven that they are Low Dutch descendants, the farm they live on has been in Sam’s family for five generations. “There has to be a link,” said his wife, JoAnn Adams, a sixth-grade teacher at Henry County Middle School.
“This project preserves the building that best represents the Low Dutch experience in Kentucky,” said the Trust’s president, Bob Polsgrove. The Trust became involved in the project when former property owner, Eddie Baxter, contacted Hall.
Baxter had considered tearing down an existing barn, which was constructed in the 1870s, to build a new barn on his farm. After carefully inspecting the interior, he realized that this was no ordinary barn.
Carefully hidden within the barn framework was the original meetinghouse framework. Although he knew that the barn would have to be moved, it was Baxter’s wish that the meetinghouse framework be kept intact.

Kit Ehrman

The Trust hired a construction crew to carefully dismantle and number the 30- to 40-foot long, 10x10-foot hand-hewn beams, to be moved and rebuilt at a later time. The Trust spent $16,000 on moving and storing expenses.
The Adams had to reimburse the Trust once they had purchased the building. Receiving no financial aid, the couple has financed the entire project themselves.
Once the project was made public, the Adams knew it would be the perfect place for JoAnn’s business. One goal she has for the building is to use it as a fiber art studio. The Adams raise sheep, and she spins her own wool. She said the building would provide her with room to wash and dye the fleece, and spin it into wool. It will also contain an area where her products can be purchased, in addition to other related crafts. Adams is considering offering knitting and spinning lessons, and educating school children on the history of the Low Dutch Colony.
“The meetinghouse is a unique religious structure that is unmistakably Dutch in character,” said Polsgrove. Its timber framing represents an ethnic tradition in building that is clearly different from the churches built on the frontier at this time period. The roof, supported by two tall wooden columns, is uniquely Dutch.
Features common to Low Dutch architecture include pegged timber framing, wattle and daub filled interstices filling the open space between the timber frames, and the Anchor Bent (found mostly in barns).

Kit Ehrman

In rebuilding the meetinghouse, the Trust required certain criteria to be met. This included reusing the original timbers, maintaining an open interior, covering the exterior with weatherboarding and covering the roof with dimensional asphalt or riven wooden shingles. A stone foundation must be visible two feet above ground and appropriate future use of the building must include opening it to the public occasionally.
The Six Mile Meetinghouse is one of only two such timber-framed meetinghouses found in Kentucky. The other is located in Harrodsburg, in Mercer County, and is known as the Old Mud Meeting House.
“This project will make it possible for future generations of Kentucky to see and experience the distinctive characteristics of Dutch American architecture,” said Polsgrove.
The meetinghouse may not be fully restored by the May 21 dedication ceremony. The Adams plan to hold an open house sometime within the coming months when they officially open the meetinghouse to the public.

• For more information, contact Polsgrove at (502) 875-1223 or the Adams at (502) 878-4814.

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