ROOTED IN HISTORY, A CIVIL WAR ERA STRUCTURE IS ONCE MORE HOME TO THE FAMILY FROM WHENCE IT CAME.
At least one Governor’s Ball; secret storage in the cellar during Prohibition; a newspaper citation as the “town’s most popular spot” —these stories are just a sampling of the history that comes with the Symsonia home of Michelle and Terry McKee. Built in 1865 by Michelle’s great-great grandfather, State Representative Pete Lyles, and known as the Pete Lyles Home on the National Register of Historic Places, the home was sold out of the family in 1900 and acquired by the McKees 100 years later.
“Charmed by the character of the house and drawn to it by its sentimental value, we had admired it for a long time,” remarks Michelle. “In 2000, Terry and I met with Paducah Bank’s Molly Bailey who helped us call the house that my great-great grandfather built over 130 years ago home.”
The house is referred to as an example of historic Greek Revival architecture with the incorporation of Italian elements. And, despite having several owners over the years, the house had structurally changed very little when the McKees began restoration in late 2005. Over a period of 18 months, during which time Michelle, Terry, and their three children took up residence in the upstairs of Michelle’s parents’ home, floors and walls were repaired, heating and air, plumbing and wiring were overhauled, the kitchen was redesigned, and a master bath and a breakfast room were added.
“Under the guidance of the Kentucky Heritage Council and helpful advice from local preservationists Chris Black and Bill Black, Jr., we tried to maintain architectural integrity and salvage as much original material as possible,” explains Michelle. The addition of rooms was completed by adding one room to each side of the original structure in order to preserve symmetry, a common characteristic of the Greek Revival style, and recovered bricks (apparently made from a clay pit once found behind the house) were used in the addition. Additional bricks were recovered from an old building in Fulton. The original, wavy-glass windows were kept, and the McKees were excited to find a name etched on one of the panes. According to Michelle’s research, the last name dates back to a family who lived in the home during the early 20th century.
The McKees credit carpenters Henry Kuiper and Tim Willett for “bringing the house back to life.” Original plans called for a much less extensive renovation project, but as one thing lead to another, the project expanded. “There was nothing we encountered that they did not have a solution for,” explains Terry.
Michelle and Terry are also grateful for the solutions provided by Paducah Bank. “Our relationship with Paducah Bank began over 17 years ago when Joe Framptom helped us secure a loan to get our first business off the ground,” Terry comments.
“We were then introduced to Molly Bailey who has gone the extra mile time and time again in providing extraordinary customer service. When we realized our renovation project was growing, it was Molly who personally drove out to our house to deliver new loan papers so that we could move forward without delay.”
Michelle acknowledges that she and Terry “opened a can of worms” with their restoration project that grew and grew, but she says, “Now that the project is completed, we are so thrilled with the results!”
A favorite feature of the home for Michelle and Terry are the 12-foot tin ceilings, and the children enjoy all the nooks and crannies that come with an old house. Michelle adds that although the tales accompanying the home are difficult to authenticate, they indicate affection among the locals for the house and contribute to the great pride she and Terry take in not only the home, but in the history of their community as well.