Hanson? Just Like When I Was a Kid….Except the Toilets are Indoors Now.
When her hometown threatened to condemn 8 historic buildings (dating from 1879-1895), Teresa Anthony purchased all of them. Over the following years, she restored and rented out all of them. Here’s her remarkable story.
Q: Could you give us some sense of growing up in Hanson, KY? Is there a major city within an easy drive?
Hanson was a great place to grow up. Even though it’s a rural area it was still close enough to town to get what you needed. When I was a kid the downtown had a wonderful old general store (Parish’s) and the Hanson Grill. The other old buildings were antique shops and an electronics repair shop.
We had a Dairy Bar, an old Texaco and summers were spent playing softball and catching fireflies. Basketball was very important and cheerleading was my life in grade & middle school.
I have 5 siblings and my dad grew up in Hanson (Mom’s from SD). He graduated from Hanson High School, which is now the elementary school. His family has been around forever. He worked in Madisonville like most people who were not farmers. The school was wonderful and I loved it. Everyone knew everyone else and really did look out for each other. It’s still very much that way although there has been a lot of growth in the area.
I went off to college, joined the Marine Corp. married a developer (he’s worked on Sea Pines, SC, Johns’s Is., Orchid Is, & Windsor in FL, Spring Is., SC, and now the Balsam Mtn. Preserve) and moved and traveled all the time. I have always been interested/involved in old buildings and have studied a lot. I’ve kind of made it a habit of buying and restoring old houses and now, Hanson is a true art and crafts paradise.
There are plenty of salvage shops out there for supplies. I studied history and photography in college which actually helps. Friends, family, and I did all the work on 3 of the buildings. My family is really handy and other than the electrical/plumbing/heat/ac work, we repaired plaster, scraped, painted, repaired and replaced floors, etc.
Q: What made you think of buying the buildings?
My father’s Aunt Willie taught at Hanson School and she lived in the corner “mansion” in Hanson. It was her house that started this project. When I was small we would visit and I thought the house was a mansion. It had wonderful high ceilings, an upstairs, and velvet Victorian furniture. I knew I’d live there someday.
Somehow it shrunk in time as it is only about 1500 square feet. I always kept in touch with the owner and asked for first dibs to buy if she ever decided to sell. Last year she said yes if I’d buy the other 3 she owned. I said sure (even though one didn’t even have a roof or floor). See also this article about ghost towns like Silver City in Idaho.
Q: Please tell us as much as you can about the project: anything you know about the history of the buildings, the restoration work itself, what the buildings are used for now.
There were 3 storefronts at the opposite end of the street from Aunt Willie’s house, that had been on the market for about a year. I decided since I was going to fix up one end of the street I might as well do the whole thing. (sure, why not, right?). There was a wonderful little building (old post office) right in the center of all these (horrible, horrible shape) that I bought as well, even though it wasn’t on the market. We pushed up our sleeves and went to work.
Aunt Willie’s house was built by H.G. Rothrock in 1878. It had just been rented out as a gift shop (the owner runs the florist across the street) so all I could do there was fix/paint the exterior porches & trim, fix the windows and rebuild the chimney that was leaning over. Next door is the Hanson Grill. Also built by Mr. Rothrock in 1878, it was his Hardware Store. It was turned into the Grill in the late 50s. Termites had done their damage and the entire floor had to be removed and rebuilt.
We busted the crumbling plaster off the walls and left the exposed brick. The plaster was also removed from the ceiling to expose the original beadboard ceiling. Atlanta architect & friend, Jim Strickland came up and helped me lay out the floor plan. We had to redo EVERYTHING. Fred Johnson of Madisonville Contractors was hired for the construction work. He wasn’t used to historic rehabs but I brought him lots of books, articles, and the Dept. of Interior Design manuals.
Fred and his crews were working on the Old Post Office at the same time. The roof had leaked for about 6 years so again everything had to be replaced. The façade was saved and that’s about it. It is now an incredible antiques store, Boxwoods Antiques, Etc. and you’d love it. It was originally built in 1885 for Doctor Waller’s office.
The only wooden structure left in the Historic District was built in 1889 and is now Stoney Creek Crafters. It’s a woodcarver/worker’s shop and he lives there as well. It was originally a Barber Shop where hot showers and a shave cost 25 cents.
The Old Lodge Building was built in 1893. There are 3 storefronts and it was originally another doctor’s office, veterinarian’s office, and pharmacy. It is now a large antique store and Karate Studio. It has the original wood floors, ceilings, etc. We had to repair all the windows, add electricity, heat/AC and plumbing. Again, most of the work was done by family, friends, and subcontractors. Tom Johnson of Keystone Restoration (from New Albany, IN) has been coming down to do all the masonry work. The entire back wall of the Lodge had to be tuck pointed and repaired.
While I was in the middle of all this, John King, who had a cabinet shop across the street, asked if I would like to buy it. He knew I’d take good care of it. He had built a 4 bedroom/2 bath apartment. above the shop. We renovated downstairs and it is now a gift store, the Picket Fence. The apartment is rented out to my sister and her kids. It was originally built in 1898 by Craig Warrick and was his grocery store.
The last building we completed was the Apple House which had been just a brick shell. Tom Johnson again worked on the brick (he’s a real artist) and Fred Johnson of Madisonville Contractors did the construction. An antique shop and art gallery is going in there. We also have an Amish bakery opening which is great news. Great for Americans who want to visit our nation’s historic sites.
Q: Are you a long-time preservationist or was the plight of these buildings your main motivation?
The town/area has shown a lot of growth in the last decade. It is actually the only area of the county that has land available for growth (because of mining in other areas and wetlands elsewhere). I knew that if I didn’t accept the challenge of rehabilitating the buildings now, it might be too late in the near future.
The Mayor had just disbanded the Hanson Preservation Society so nothing would keep the owners from tearing down the buildings. I had heard a suggestion of tearing down Aunt Willie’s house to put up a McDonalds. EEEKKKKK
Q: How did you find the funding for all this?
Everything has been paid for with private funds. I’m pushing $500,000.00 which seems like a lot but I’ve done a lot with it. I’m thrifty and try and spend where it’s most critical. It’s funds that were going to be used for a beach house but this is so much more important and whether or not I ever see a return on my investment, the buildings are safe and that was my first goal.
Q: How has what you’ve done changed the ambiance of the town? E.g. is the population growing/has it become a tourist attraction/do more people come to shop?
People are coming from all over to shop. It’s quaint and a fun day trip. There happens to be a small outlet mall a few miles down the road just off the Parkway and that helps too. The City has gotten involved and repaired the sidewalks and are enlarging the city-owned parking areas. I had to build a parking lot behind the Grill.
We’re investigating having the electric lines buried or at least moved to the back of the buildings. I have also just completed a documentary about Historic Hanson. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am when I drive home (at least once a month) and see all the lights on, people milling about, shopping, visiting, etc. Just like when I was a kid…except the toilets are indoors now.