The end of the story of Nicholasville's 'Lady Sterling House'

The Lady Sterling House. Nicholasville, Ky. Author's collection.
 In 1804, Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States. The Louisiana Purchase was completed. And Christopher Greenup was elected the commonwealth’s third governor.

Only six years earlier, Nicholasville was founded and Jessamine County was formed. These were the earliest of days for our nation, our commonwealth and our community.

Original 1802 Plat Map of Nicholasville. Jessamine Historical Society.
Also in 1804, a log cabin was built on lot 104. Lot 104, as found on Nicholasville’s original plat map dated 1802, was at the northwest corner of West and North Cross streets. Those road names are today known as First and Walnut streets, respectively.

In 1839, the log cabin was owned by rented out to a young Englishman, Ross Hughes, and his wife. Mr. Hughes was a stagecoach driver and was on the road often and for considerable time.

Lady Sterling House. Jessamine PVA.
Even so, a little girl was born in the log cabin to Hughes’ wife in 1841. Mother and daughter tracked the absent father to St. Louis where it was discovered that he was, in fact, quite wealthy. The young girl “became a lady in fashionable society in St. Louis, and later the wife of an English lord, and the mistress of a superb mansion in London society.” As wife of the English lord, she received the honorary title of “lady” and so the moniker for the now defunct log cabin could appropriately be the Lady Sterling House.

The story was told in Bennett Young’s 1898 “History of Jessamine County” and retold by Robin Fain in a 1993 history of the county. The 1898 history of the county said of the log cabin’s condition that “it has been altered and weatherboarded anew, and is still one of the most comfortable residences in the town.”

That weatherboarding disguised history for generations. When Dr. Rice Teater moved from his large home at West Third and Maple streets, many were surprised that the popular physician chose to downsize to the old weathered structure at First and Walnut streets.

But the history-loving Dr. Teater must have known the building’s storied past. Dr. Teater died from injuries sustained during a fire in the structure in the early 1950s.

A second fire, about 25-years ago, resulted in the discovery of the old hewn logs and the revelation that the house had stood since the early days of lot 104. When the Kentucky Historic Resources Survey looked at historic places in Nicholasville in the mid-1980s, it overlooked this covered property which today lies just outside the district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Yet, it was still a piece of our community’s history that had witnessed nearly all of it. That is, until the events which followed the third fire.

On Thursday evening, another fire consumed the log cabin.

A number of individuals took to social media to express their hope that the 210-year-old building would see another day. Wrote Kim Shea, “if the old cabin could be saved and restored, that would be great.” Ann Royalty hoped that, at a minimum, someone could “have a few of the logs to put on display for history or museum purposes.”

It would have taken preservationists only a few days to determine if some form of salvage was possible.

But those few days weren't to happen. Despite attempting to save at least the old log cabin to be assessed, the entire property was razed early Saturday morning.

How much more of our past must be destroyed before we at least pause to consider it? Remember, demolition is forever.


The post above was originally published in the Jessamine Journal on December 11, 2014.  
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