Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Nestled on twenty seven acres of pastoral splendor stands Old Crow Inn, the oldest stone house west of the Allegheny Mountains. Encased by black post and board fencing and old stone fencing, the Inn is surrounded by mature shade trees and carefully manicured lawns. Lovely dogwood and redbud trees line the long oval drive to the main house.
The Inn itself is an architectural delight. Constructed in 1780 using stone taken from a quarry on the farm, the 24” thick walls stand two stories high behind massive Doric columns which support a Greek Portico. All of the rooms have walnut doors and woodwork, ash floors, and cherry beams, native timbers cut from virgin forests of the late 1700’s. Old Crow Inn is on the Kentucky Register of Historic Homes and the National Register of Historic Places.
The CROW-BARBEE House is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places as the oldest Stone structure west of the Allegheny Mountains. Today it is called “Old Crow Inn” in honor of John Crow, who settled here in 1776. The estate was called “Oakland” by the Barbees who lived in the house from 1781 to 1874.
Old Crow Inn is a 7 bay asymmetrical two story structure with the front door located in the fifth bay. Walls of the structure are of 24” dry-stacked limestone, reaching from the foundation to the roof line 40 feet above. The interior beams, floors, woodwork and doors are fashioned from cherry, walnut and ash cut down on the property. Most of the rafters and floor beams throughout the house are 3” by 12” Cherry. All of the woodwork and doors are made from Black Walnut and the floors are White Ash. There are stone fireplaces in each room on the first and second floors as well as in two of the three basement cellars. The third basement cellar was the cold storage used to store dairy and vegetables.
Historians believe that Crow built a log cabin on the property in 1776 when he planted his first corn crop to claim the property. A land court record also states that he improved the property in 1777 when he built a 1 1/2 story stone cottage at the rear of what is now the main house. The stone cottage, approximately 19 feet square has walls of 18” thick dry stacked stone. All of the beams are 3” x 12” Cherry. The rafters in the half-story attic are 4” x 5” Cherry pegged at the peak and at the knee walls with Walnut pegs. The rafters have been marked with Roman numerals so as to properly align the mortise and tendon joints on the ground prior to pegging in place at the roof peak.
There is some disagreement as to who constructed the main Stone Manor House. There is some evidence to indicate that Crow built the central portion in 1780 since the construction of the stone walls, Cherry beams and Walnut woodwork and doors is nearly identical to the craftsmanship in the stone cottage. Crow sold the property to James Wright in 1781. However, Wright was killed by Indians before he and his family could move in. After his death, his heirs sold the property to Thomas Barbee in the mid 1780’s.
Thomas Barbee, a landed statesman of that time, rose to the rank of General in the Kentucky Militia and became the first Post Master west of the Alleghenies. Thomas and his youngest brother, Col. Joshua Barbee, added the two wings onto the house as well as the 4 foot thick brick Doric columns and the triangle pediment Greek Portico. Thomas started on the project in 1786 and the construction was finished in 1797.
Construction of the two wings, first the left and then the right, confirms the above historical view. The stones for the two wings are cut and dressed in a much more sophisticated manner then those in the central portion. The beams for the two wings are Chestnut, not Cherry. Finally, the nails and other details indicate a difference in construction style and technique.
This unique English Manor house built in a Greek revival style, has been most widely known throughout its 20th Century history as an inn and restaurant. In 1899, the Adams family bought the house and grounds, with its farm acreage to be used for agricultural purposes. But in 1934, upon the advice of friends, Miss Mary Adams opened the inn for meals and overnight accommodations. For the next 40 years, Miss Mary, as she was known throughout the Bluegrass region, operated a restaurant in the inn. She also hosted Weddings and Receptions, class graduation parties, teas, and other social events. In addition she also provided some overnight accommodations to travelers. The name “Old Crow Inn” was chosen by Miss Mary. Her research, through correspondence with various Historians around the country as well as her interpretation of court documents, indicated that John Crow had much to do with the establishment of the House known as Old Crow. She was in the process of committing all of this to paper at her death.