Winchester, Kentucky Historic Preservation Commission

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

 Office of Planning and Community Development, P.O. Box 40, Winchester, KY 40392-0040 (859) 744-7019

Our Current Featured Building

S. P. Kerr Building (1889)

The historic Kerr building
Historic photo of the Kerr building.

The Kerr building in the 1980s
The Kerr building in the 1980s.

The 'Rooster' atop the Kerr building
The 'Rooster' atop the Kerr building.

The Kerr building in 2007, nearly complete

The Kerr building in 2007, nearly complete

The S.P. Kerr Building, at the corner of North Main and West Broadway, is an outstanding recent example of Winchester's commitment to community revitalization and historic preservation downtown.

Originally built in 1889 as Eclipse Mills, the 32,000 square foot building has also been home to J.J. Newberry Co. (a five and dime store chain), and The Corner Drug Store.

Despite its long history, by 1999 the building was vacant and much deteriorated. The potential for structural failure combined with a lack of financial backing put the Kerr Building at risk for demolition. The Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation placed the Kerr Building on its "11th Hour" Most Endangered list.

Encouraged by the City of Winchester, Union Properties and Bailey Associates bought the property in October 2001 and set the building on course for a brighter future. Work on a comprehensive rehabilitation plan began in August 2002. The project was supported by a combination of funding from the Renaissance Kentucky program, façade easement and tax credit programs, and private investment.

The rehabilitation was extensive and involved almost every part of the building. Workers shored up and replaced many structural elements that had been damaged by water. Leaks in the roof were fixed and deteriorated rafters, sheathing, and joists were replaced. Character-defining windows and storefronts were replicated to the original profiles with solid mahogany, and the exterior brick was carefully cleaned and re-pointed.

By December 2005--three years and almost two million dollars later--the building was ready for occupancy.

Today the Kerr building is home to 9000 square feet of commercial space and over 18,000 square feet of senior living space and the building remains an anchor in the Winchester Historic Downtown Business District. The unusual corbeled cornice and rock faced stone foundation, sills, and lintels accentuate the horizontality of the facade. Rusticated stone columns set off the building's rounded corner entrance. The original sign block, and a new rooster* once again herald the entrance to an active and vital building.

The Kerr building rehabilitation project could not have been successful without the support of the City Commission, the Mayor, and the community, all of whom worked to preserve and revitalize this icon of Winchester's historic downtown.


* About the Rooster

(excerpt from The Winchester Sun 3/4/06)

The rooster atop the Kerr Building is a replacement bird for one that had stood at the same site since the early 1930s.

In the 1930s, America was in the midst of the great Depression and looking for a leader to start them on the road to recovery. Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his candidacy for president of the United States. His opponent would be the incumbent, Herbert Hoover.

As Election Day approached, many wagers were replaced, but in a sagging economy, not all of them were monetary. In Winchester, the late N. Rol Ratliff, a businessman, was a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party. The late Ogden Estes, an employee of the Ratliff Furniture Company, believed just as strongly in the Republican leadership.

Thus, when Ratliff offered a money wager in favor of Roosevelt, Estes placed his wager on the incumbent with his payment to be the installation of the Democratic symbol on top of the Kerr building, at that time occupied by The Corner Drug Store. Once the rooster was installed, Estes was to flap his arms like wings and crow like the rooster.

If the Republican incumbent were returned to office, Ratliff had to roll a peanut with his nose up Main Street from the intersection of Main and Broadway to the Clark County Courthouse.

Once word of the wager spread, there was much public interest, and the community anxiously awaited the outcome of the election. Ratliff's father-in-law, the late John McLeod, a wood-carver, agreed to furnish the rooster for the building.

As history has recorded, Roosevelt did win, and the rooster was installed, high above the crowded street. Estes, true to his word, put on quite a show for the spectators several stories below.

The original rooster disappeared prior to the beginning of the rehabilitation of the Kerr Building, but a new one has since taken its place. A symbol of an era when money was at a minimum, but good clean fun was available and a man's word was his bond.


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© Copyright 2004-2014 Historic Preservation Commission: Winchester, Kentucky

Winchester Historic Preservation Commission
Office of Planning and Community Development
P.O. Box 40
Winchester, KY 40392-0040
(859) 744-7019