As Americans become more drawn to urban lifestyles, downtown environments become prime locations. Downtown Frankfort has its share of charming residential spaces. One of these spaces is home away from home for Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham and his wife, Paula.
The quaint one bedroom, one and a half bath, apartment has all the appeal and convenience of a downtown living space, and plenty of history to add to its authenticity. Owners Craig and Amy Potts added back as much original detail into the small building as budget and modern living requirements can provide.
The 150-year-old building at 226 – 230 St. Clair Street was meant to be occupied by a lawyer. Its origins go back to the 1850s as an office building for barristers conducting business in the courthouse next door. The two story masonry façade structure had a classic floor plan of two offices on the first floor and two offices overhead accessed by a center staircase.
In the restoration process, the Potts masterfully incorporated a modern layout with historical elements. Today’s second floor is now the Cunningham’s cozy, yet spacious apartment with downtown charm not found in suburban options.
- Origins: The origin of this small building begins in the 1850s. In recalling the amenities of buildings in that period, one would need to remember the lack of indoor plumbing. The plumbing needs were met through a documented outhouse in the back courtyard of the building. While the well maintained, freshly painted façade placed the building in the modern world, the well-worn stone entry steps remind visitors of its history.
- History: Over the past 150 years, this compact 2700-square-foot building has served as a home base for a variety of tenants — Monroe’s tailor business, several retail shops (including my own Periwinkle Interiors) and professional offices. At one point, the building served as the administrative office of pre-prohibition Cedar Run Distillery (a division of J & JM Saffiel Distilleries) with a noted tag line of, “For Connoisseurs, And Those Who Can Afford It.”
- Charm: In restoring the building, the Potts present a modern floor plan with historical elements. The dilemma was preservation ethic versus budget. The hardwood floors are original. The original windows were restored, and existing baseboards were pulled and refinished. A surprise find was spools of thread from the tailor shop behind the baseboards. A ¾ light glass door was saved for use in the bedroom. The staircase wall has exposed brick as an architectural feature. Even the unexpectedly large central kitchen has exposed brick for character. Glass globe lighting and bright blue tile add a modern, yet vintage appeal.
- Function: The main living areas of the apartment are spacious and create circular movement, perfect for a surprising amount of entertainment hosted by the Cunningham’s. Guests have included elected state and congressional officers and families, state agency officials, and longtime Frankfort friends. A door from the kitchen opens to a large private back deck for outdoor living. A hallway passage conveniently accommodates a small desk, built in bookcases, and laundry area.
- Location: Good quality residential units in downtown Frankfort are in high demand. The Potts’s decision to add this long term rental, as well as a short term Airbnb unit on the street level, made good sense. The Cunningham’s, whose main residence is in the small community of Kuttawa on Kentucky Lake, were drawn to the atmosphere of downtown. And, why not? Amenities include the Grand Theater, YMCA, churches, local watering holes, a variety of restaurants, art galleries, and — a walkable lifestyle. It’s a place where the enviable history cultivated by our Old State Capital reveals itself in every block. Downtown charm with built in history.