I should have been within the fallacious place. All of the freeway indicators on Interstate 24 pointed towards a welcome middle with restrooms. However after parking my automobile, I seemed by means of the windshield at an enormous three-story antebellum residence. Elaborate Corinthian columns supported a towering portico. Wood shudders flanked double-hung home windows. The bricks have been painted a superb white.
I should have been within the fallacious place.
However after getting out of the automobile, I discovered the restrooms and the racks full of tourism brochures. A map on the wall pinpointed my location in Paducah, Kentucky. I heard the acquainted plop from close by merchandising machines.
This was a welcome middle. The Whitehaven Welcome Heart. And it’s the one welcome middle within the nation in an antebellum residence.
Historical past of Whitehaven
In 1865, Edward Anderson constructed a two-story brick farmhouse. Typical of the development strategies on the time, the bricks have been fired in a kiln on website.
In 1903, the Anderson household bought the home to Edward Atkins. Atkins employed his good friend, architect Alda Lafayette Lassiter, to rework the brick farmhouse within the Greek Revival fashion. Lassiter added the entrance portico supported by eight Corinthian columns, intricate crown molding, and constructed a grand staircase within the middle of the home. Atkins painted the brick home white and named it Whitehaven.
After the loss of life of his spouse, Atkins bought the home to James Smith, the ninth mayor of Paducah, in 1908. James and Nell Smith had six youngsters and wanted extra room in the home. The attic was transformed into a 3rd flooring with bedrooms, and a big kitchen was hooked up to the again of the home. Nell renamed the home “Bide-A-Wee,” a Scottish phrase that means “Keep awhile.”
In 1968, the final member of the Smith household moved out. The household employed caretakers to keep up the property, however as a substitute, they started promoting something of worth and pocketing the money. When the final caretaker moved out in 1979, squatters promptly moved in. Practically each window in the home was damaged, the flooring and ceilings rotted, and a portion of the east wall collapsed.
In 1981, the Smith household bought the 32-acre property and the home to the Paducah Junior Faculty. The small faculty wanted land to develop its campus however had little interest in the home. The luxurious mansion continued to deteriorate.
Whitehaven Welcome Heart
Whereas visiting the realm in 1981, Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown Jr. realized concerning the historic home on the facet of the not too long ago accomplished Interstate 24. Together with Secretary of Transportation Frank Metts, Brown determined the home could be the proper location for a welcome middle for southbound visitors from Illinois.
The state bought the home and a small tract of land from the Paducah Junior Faculty. The home was restored to its early 1900s glamour that includes a Greek Revival fashion. The kitchen wing in the back of the home was renovated to function the restrooms and welcome middle. The second flooring was transformed right into a museum displaying memorabilia of Vice President Alben Barkley, a Paducah native who served within the Truman administration from 1949 to 1953.
The unique carriage home, storm shelter, and gazebo have been additionally restored and repurposed for storage. Picnic tables have been put in beneath a number of timber close to the carriage home. And an entry ramp for southbound visitors was constructed on to the welcome middle.
On June 23, 1983, the Whitehaven Welcome Heart was open, the one customer middle within the nation positioned inside an antebellum residence.
Guided Excursions of Whitehaven
The Whitehaven Welcome Heart has clear restrooms, outside picnic tables, a spot to stroll the canine, and racks of journey brochures. In some ways, it’s identical to every other interstate welcome middle.
However guests may also take a guided tour of the historic home.
Excursions start on the prime of each hour, and I used to be only a few minutes early. I waited within the small foyer as a bunch of 5 further guests gathered. The tour started in a room with a beautiful white brick hearth and grand piano. The tour information defined that authentic supplies have been used throughout restoration within the Eighties.
The tour included the lobby with daylight pouring by means of the massive glass doorways and home windows, built-in benches, and the grand staircase. Upstairs, rooms have been adorned with interval furnishings, though not authentic. The Barkley Room displayed Alben Barkley’s desk used whereas he was a congressman and one other desk used whereas vice chairman.
The tour lasted solely half an hour. However I had by no means been on a guided tour at a welcome middle earlier than, so it was already higher than most.
And I had by no means seen a welcome middle inside a historic antebellum residence.