ABOUT THE MERRIWETHER HOUSE
In 1891, Harry Merriwether, a formerly-enslaved African American, purchased one and a half acres of land overlooking Harrods Creek. In 1898 he sold the lot to his grandson Harry Hall Merriwether who then built an American steamboat gothic house which remained in the Merriwether family for four generations, the longest continuous home ownership of any African American family in the region according to historians. The Merriwether House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. This house tells an important story of formerly-enslaved African Americans in rural Jefferson County.
With the enthusiastic endorsement of Merriwether family descendants and the support of generous donors, River Fields saved this historic property from foreclosure, and we are now in the process of rehabilitating the house’s exterior. Restoring this important historic structure and rare surviving example of the African-American experience on Harrods Creek, furthers River Fields’s mission of protecting and preserving the cultural resources along the Ohio River.
Local historians have repeatedly confirmed that this home, built in the late eighteenth century and owned by the same family through the early twenty-first century is the only such home in the region and it highlights a part of African American history that is largely unknown in Louisville and beyond. Because of its design and prominent location, the Merriwether House offers powerful testimony to the existence of the historic African American community in Harrods Creek which is still active.
RESTORATION OF THE HOUSE
River Fields is currently overseeing the restoration of this important historic structure to the Secretary of the Interior’s “Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties,” stabilizing the structure and preserving its exterior historic architectural features. Below are photos of the porch carefully being taken apart, good elements being numbered and stored for later full restoration of the wrap-around porch.
Once the porch and windows were removed and stored, the house was ready to be lifted for it’s new foundation.
River Fields’ goal is to restore the house and its wrap-around porch and eventually return it to private ownership. Since the house was built on a wood foundation, the most expensive part of the restoration has been the construction of a new masonry foundation. This required temporarily removing the porch and windows, raising the house, pouring a foundation, and lowering the house onto the new foundation. Next steps include restoring the porch, replacing the roof and gutters, restoring the windows, and painting. The exterior appearance of the house will be protected by a preservation easement. Costs to date have exceeded $350,000, $300,000 of which has come from a fund created by the settlement of the Ohio River Bridges Project litigation and administered by the State Historic Preservation Officers of Kentucky and Indiana. We continue to raise funds from individual donors and foundations to complete the work on this important historic landmark.
To donate directly towards this project, click below: