IT’S A LOVE STORY MADE IN INTERNET HEAVEN. Bruce Brockenborough and Mary Thorsby dated when Bruce was at the University of Missouri and Mary at Stephens College, both in Columbia, MO. The date went well, but like many college romances, the couple soon lost touch, went their separate ways, and hadn’t spoken in nearly two decades.
Thanks to a little curiosity and Google-ability, the two reunited in 2003. Soon after, they were engaged, and found themselves flying back and forth from California to Kentucky to spend time together.
“We were engaged in 2005, and during this time I was seeking a new project and found The Madison in Lower Town,” Bruce explains. “Mary was living in San Francisco, and I was in Paducah. I told her about the place as soon as I found it, and she was right behind me. Within a month, we started the project.”
Mary adds, “Paducah, to me, is the San Francisco of the South. It’s a great place full of amazing artists, culture, and characters. There is no shortage of energy here for people who are passionate about what they do. I really enjoy the transition from living in a big city for so many years.”
“When we first married, I had an apartment on Broadway and Water Street. We really loved it, but believe it or not, sometimes downtown can be very busy,” Bruce adds. “We decided Lower Town would be a great compromise. We could still walk to all our favorite restaurants, shops and attractions.”
Finding the right building to renovate in Paducah is like going to The Chocolate Factory and being told you can only choose one piece of candy. There are so many great places that need resuscitation, both in Lower Town and its surrounding neighborhoods. Take for instance, The Madison.
Bruce comments that one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in the renovation process was the amount of restoration needed for such a large building. “The Madison was built around 1917, and was widely regarded as one of the most luxurious places to rent in Paducah. As the town grew west, the neighborhood fell into disrepair and became low-rent housing. When we purchased The Madison, it was uninhabitable. I inquired about the place because the exterior was so unique and every apartment had a sunroom. The building is about 20,000 square feet of living space. I talked to several developers who said they would have taken the project on had it been half or a third the size. It’s definitely been a challenge for us to take on such a large project. We’re excited to see the progress and to know that The Madison will once again be a very nice place to live.”
“One of the best moves I made early on was scheduling a meeting with the Mayor, City Manager, Inspector, Planner, etc., and I told them what we wanted to do with this building. We ironed out a lot of issues that day, which was incredibly valuable. I would recommend that to anyone who is planning on renovating a building in Paducah.”
Originally, The Madison consisted of 18 apartments, which have been renovated into 9 condominiums. Bruce continues, “It took about a year to move into our apartment. The first floor unit was finished about a year later. This project would not have moved so quickly had it not been for Ray Black & Sons. We wanted everything to be historically accurate. It was an arduous task. For example, every door and window was taken out and manually cleaned, repaired, and reinstalled back into its original location.”
The Madison consists of three buildings separated by a firewall, each with its own entrance. The vintage Lower Town structure includes three-bedroom, two-bedroom and one-bedroom units.
“Lower Town is a wonderful neighborhood for anyone,” Mary says. “It’s so great to be friends with all your neighbors, walk to restaurants and shops, and walk down to the river. We love it here.”