LIBERTY — The first mayor of Liberty, Madison Miller, built a small residence on Gallatin Street around 1840 and most likely, in the 20 years between then and the start of the Civil War, additions were made, said Ken Personett, owner of Capstone Homes.
Throughout the city of Liberty, Personett’s handiwork can be seen. He takes old homes, those teetering on demolition, and restores them. Most of the residences are in historic districts.
While the Miller house, located at 124 N. Gallatin St., is technically not in a historic district, it is a landmark, which means Personett, a historic preservationist, has to jump through some serious hoops to revive the residence.
“It’s got great structural integrity,” he said. “It needs to be restored rather than let it decay. I will present the plan to the Historic District Review Commission, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, the State Historic Preservation Office and then for a 353, the local tax abatement. I have to get all these groups to agree.”
Anna Driskill, who owned the home for about five years, believes it has been vacant for close to seven years. Initially, she and her husband, Roger Driskill, a local attorney, thought in a few years they would be living in 124 N. Gallatin St.
“We had the house for about five years,” Anna said. “I have loved that house my whole life. My father would drive me by the house and point out the tree. He was a horticulturist. Of course, that debate was whether or not the tree was a bald cyprus or sequoia. It’s always been in my consciousness. It’s such a great house. It didn’t work out for us. It was more than we were able to take on.”
Personett purchased the property from the Driskills in December.
“The longevity of the house is more important and I knew Ken would respect the house and the history. I know he will restore it as properly as possible,” said Anna.
Anna added she would like to see the additions from 1900 removed and see the historic residence returned to a single-family home if possible.
“The house in 1840 was mostly two rooms up and down,” Personett said. “As the additions came, the exterior walls became the interior walls. They are about 18 inches of thick brick. It’s pretty amazing, but also limits me some on how I can renovate the home.”
Personett said the house has good bones, adding the house was likely divided into seven apartments at some point.
“I can make it more modern, but I have to keep the historic integrity,” he said. “... With all the additions, it’s about 8,000 square feet. With the addition from the 1930s removed, it’s still going to be at about 5,600 square feet.”
Personett is still formulating what he plans to do with the house, saying it could be turned back into a single-family residence, a duplex, fourplex, bed and breakfast or mixed-use building.
“I enjoy doing these demolitions and a lot of the work myself,” he said. “What ends up as the finished house will honor the legacy.”