Jack and Karen Hoover enjoy living in the historic district of downtown Frankfort. Twenty-four years ago the couple bought one of five brick townhomes built by Gordon and Joan Taylor, making the short move from East Third street across the Kentucky River where they had lived for many years.
“We’ve always loved living in this area. Everything is so convenient — the library, Pic-Pac, museums, shops,” Karen comments. “And, it’s a great place to walk. Our dog, Molly, knows everyone around here!” she says with a smile.
The Taylor townhomes are situated at the intersection of Wapping and Wilkinson streets. They were designed by architects Gray, Coblin & Porter, former next door neighbor of the townhomes’ site. The design includes classic elements that ensure the townhomes blend into the historic surroundings, according to Gordon. “Each home has subtle differences to give them distinctive characteristics,” he says.
Gordon explains that the Todd-Lindsey house on that site sat vacant, abandoned and burned before he bought it. “It was beyond repair,” he says. The original wrought iron fence was restored and was able to be used within the brick wall that surrounds the townhomes and gardens.
The townhomes sit directly across from the Orlando Brown House, built in 1835 for statesman John Brown’s son. “My mother lived in an apartment there (Orlando Brown House) for several years so we spent a lot of time there,” Gordon says. “Maybe that’s what piqued my interest when the land across the street became available.” Gordon and Joan live in one of the townhomes.
The Hoovers’ inviting front door sits beyond an attractive wrought iron gate. Molly the dog often presides benevolently over their well-tended and small “city yard.”
Inside, they decorated with a wonderful eclectic mix of the couple’s love of all things art. Paintings hang on walls and propped up on tables, sculptures perch on shelves and pieces of furniture have a story to tell. “We collect what we like,” Karen explains. Because of that, their house is filled with artwork from many places and a wide variety of artists.
The two-bedroom, two-bath home is “up-and-down” living at it’s best. The living area, dining room, kitchen and outdoor courtyard are on the first floor. Two spacious bedrooms and a remodeled bathroom, done by Ben Harp of Harp Ceramic Tile, comprise the upper level. The basement, which Jack and Karen finished, is set up as a family room area with a bed for visiting grandchildren.
The Hoover home is a reflection of both Karen and Jack. The artwork ranges from local artists to pieces from the southwest and beyond. Iron toys, collected by Jack, are lined up on a dining room cabinet. Their unique dining room table is an Irish wake table. “The story they tell is that back when families laid their loved ones out at home for the showing and the wake, this is a table they would use for the body,” Karen says. “We don’t know if this is the real thing or a replica — we just liked it.”
Paintings and other art line the staircase to the second floor. Karen comments about several of the pieces, the artists and what she likes about them. In the guest bedroom, she lays out a large folder of art on top of a beautiful antique bed. “These are pictures of some of the paintings I’ve ‘copied,’” she explains. “I always sign my name and then put the original artist’s name on it as well.”
The stack was deep as she leafed through, pulling out pieces she had painted for family or friends.
The bed in the room has its own interesting story. It was bought at a Danville auction by Karen’s niece, who had instructions to bid up to a certain amount for the piece of furniture. Her niece told her later that a farmer came up to her afterwards and said his wife was going to kill him because he hadn’t bought the bed. He had been over buying some farm equipment up for auction instead.
Karen and Jack met in Tucson, Arizona, through Karen’s brother-in-law when she was just 17. He and Jack were Air Force fighter pilots together in the 1950s. While in the military, Jack had the distinction of being in the first flight of F-100s to “in-air refuel” over the Atlantic while flying from Newfoundland to North Africa.
The couple, married 60 years, have two children, Taylor and Meaghan, and four grandchildren.
Karen has been an artist all of her life and continues to paint in a little space upstairs by a window. “She points out a few watercolor paintings throughout the house that she has done. “I haven’t kept many of my paintings. I give them to my children, my grandchildren and my friends,” she says.
Instead of buying toys and clothes for her grandchildren, Karen and Jack decided early-on to give them gifts they could appreciate for years to come. “Every birthday and Christmas, we buy them art,” she says. “If they like it now, great, but if not, perhaps they’ll come to love it at a later point in their lives.”
The Hoovers are actively “living history” within the corner of celebrities. As part of the historic district, with sightings of the “Gray Lady” of Liberty Hall, there sometimes comes pointed questions. In response to the question, ‘Has he ever seen the “Gray Lady?” Jack responds (standing next to Karen), “The only gray lady I ever see is the one right here.”