Rob and Molly Oliver like the idea of living in a place where they know the history. Their five bedroom, three bath home in South Frankfort could certainly tell them more than a century of stories if it could talk.
Built during the turmoil of the Civil War sometime between 1860 and 1863 for a couple named William and Ellen William, the East Fourth street home has withstood battles within shouting distance of its walls, become part of a thriving neighborhood surrounding a new Capitol building, housed guests as Olde Kantucke Bed and Breakfast and now is home to a young family who will make their own memories here.
North versus South
It’s difficult to imagine how the Williams family on Fourth Street and other residents felt when the Confederates arrived in South Frankfort in the Fall of 1862. Frankfort holds the distinction of being the only Union capital to be captured during the Civil War. Within a month, it was reclaimed by the Union Army.
The Confederates tried to take the city a second time in June of 1864, trading fire with soldiers at the State Arsenal from across the Kentucky River. This time they were unsuccessful in their attempt. In an article by Tim Talbott titled “1864 Attack on Frankfort,” he writes “…if the townspeople had not turned out to defend the capital city, it is likely that the Confederates would have burned much of the town’s important buildings and records.”
A new neighbor
In 1909, the house on Fourth street was almost 50 years old when the new state house was ready for the government to move in. At this time, the state house was situated on 30 acres comprised of the “Hunt place” and vacant lots and homes.
With the completion of the Capitol Building, the street leading to the state house was renamed Capital Avenue. Before that, according to research provided by local historian Russ Hatter, there was no “east” and “west” distinction for the streets in the area. Their house, Rob explains, was simply on “Fourth street.” Records show that in 1910, many of the street numbers were changed and the Oliver house was designated “210 East Fourth St.”
Molly says that one of her favorite views is from a front bedroom window of their home because the Capitol Dome can be seen. “It’s beautiful, especially at night,” she remarks. The homeowners that lived nearby in the beginning of the twentieth century had a front seat to history during the building of the massive Beaux Arts-style Capitol.
New life for an old home
When Rob and Molly bought the home in 2016, it was in poor condition but had the “bones” that they were searching for. “It had character and lots of room and I loved the staircase,” Molly says. “And it’s in South Frankfort,” she adds. They knew they wanted a home in the walkable neighborhood surrounding the capital. “It’s just really nice to be able to walk somewhere like the (Kentucky) Coffeetree Cafe or over to one of the summer concerts,” she says.
Rob is a Franklin County firefighter and grew up in Frankfort. Molly, who is from Huntington, West Virginia, works for a local business. Rob and Molly agree that Frankfort was the right place for them to settle. “This is a great area, we like the school district and we have family around us and that is so important,” she explains.
While they were renovating the home, Molly was pregnant and was therefore relegated to “safe” projects. One of her special projects was to paint a mountain scene on one of the nursery walls. “Everyone thought I was crazy but I thought it was peaceful; and Rob and I were married out west somewhere very like,” Molly remarks. Baby Piper was born just in time to move into her new home. She is now one and keeps busy exploring the spacious abode.
To make the house livable, Rob had many projects on his list. “The roof was leaking everywhere and the weather that came in ruined so much,” Rob explains. “We had a lot of work to do in order for us to be able to live here and we had good people helping us with the renovation,” he says. “We have tried to maintain as much of the original home as we can. This house was a bed and breakfast for awhile, then turned back into a single family home. I tried to keep the original floors but they had to be replaced. I couldn’t save them.”
Rob’s father, Kelly Oliver, could be found at the house helping whenever possible. “I could see the potential in the house but it really was in bad shape when they bought it,” Kelly remembers. “They’ve put in so much work and done such a good job with it. Rob learned a lot working on his first house, and I think even more on this one,” he adds.
The front door opens to a grand foyer featuring an intricately carved wood staircase, an original gem of the home. Off the foyer is a comfortable living area and a large dining room. Both rooms have fireplaces, high ceilings and lots of light from the windows. A large, inviting table and chairs that once belonged to Molly’s parents awaits conversation and laughter of family and friends in the dining room.
Along the back of the house is a charming kitchen and eating area. A stunning, live-edge wood bar serves as a counter between the two areas. “Sam Nolan and I built this,” Rob explains. Behind the kitchen is a full laundry and updated bath. The couple enjoys the kitchen area that leads out to a new deck and back yard. “We spend most of our time in here,” Molly comments.
There is no shortage of bedrooms. The main floor has a master bedroom and upstairs are three nice-sized, light-filled bedrooms which the couple have renovated. Also on that floor is a bathroom and another bedroom that remains on the list for updates. “It’s just a big house and something we’ll be working on for quite a while,” they say laughing. “I can see how this was a bed and breakfast at one time,” Rob says.
Much has changed in the 150 plus years since the house was built on the quiet side of the Kentucky River. It has stood steady on the sidelines of Frankfort history and now is adding a new chapter with a family who loves it.