RABBIT HASH, Ky. — On a warm, early May day, Terrie Markesbery watches the Ohio River flow by her temporary Rabbit Hash store, a barn about 150 feet from the former building.
She thought back to the night of Feb. 13, when the Rabbit Hash General Store, a national landmark built in 1831, burned down. A week later her husband, Richard Young, 50, died.
The fire debris is gone now, and only the foundation and segments of the heavily beamed floor remain.
"I know it will work out as it is supposed to,” said Markesbery, who has managed the Rabbit Hash General Store for 17 years.
Now the citizens of Rabbit Hash, much of Northern Kentucky and people from places far away await the outcome of the future of the famous Boone County landmark.
To update the community, Mike Striker of Gray & Pape, the project manager, told a meeting of approximately 40 citizens Monday evening in Burlington that “the biggest problem down there is water.” In 185 years, the building never had running water.
Health rules for retail stores that serve food require a septic system of 1,000 gallons that can process 250 gallons per day, “the smallest they require,” according to Don Clare, president of the Rabbit Hash Historical Society.
Another requirement, apparently, will be a cistern — county water mains do not reach Rabbit Hash — capable of providing water for a single toilet and sink restroom, to be used by one employee, Striker said.
Designing the plumbing, which must include an employee restroom, is just one of several large hurdles the Rabbit Hash Historical Society must clear on the way to full restoration of its beloved building, which was on the National Register of Historic Places.
“That means we must meet requirements of the Kentucky Heritage Society and the National Park Service, which oversees historic places,” Striker said.
To a certain extent, what happens depends upon money raised. So far, Clare said, about $172,000, which includes $60,000 from insurance, and another $20,000 on the building’s contents, has been raised. Fundraising continues online at RabbitHashHistSoc.org.
Architecture services are being provided by Harry Sparks, retired owner of AGI, a Covington-based architecture firm. According to Clare, Sparks, a bluegrass guitar player, played with the Rabbit Hash Ramblers in the store that burned.
General contractor on the project is Ed Unterreiner, whose daughter Mary is on the Rabbit Hash Historical Society Board. Sparks and Unterreiner said maintaining the original character of the building is essential to retain its historic status.
An unusual construction method of using large vertical boards attached to the 10-inch by 12-inch or 12-by-12 floor beams with horizontal boards up the sides created the box of the original building, Sparks said. That restoration will be use the same method.
The restoration work is estimated for completion in spring 2018.
It is not really about the losses, Markesbery said, looking out at the passing Ohio River. It is about finding a new day.
‘Restore the Store’ benefit
A two-day music festival has been scheduled to benefit restoration efforts at the Rabbit Hash general Store.
- What: “Restore the Store” benefit featuring more than 30 musical acts.
- When: 7 p.m. May 28 to 11 p.m. May 29
- Where: The Southgate House Revival, 111 E Sixth St., Newport, Ky.
- Tickets: $20 for two-day pass. Available at ticketfly.com.
- Details: Music lineup at rabbithashhistsoc.org; more information on the event’s Facebook page.