Ironmaster house saved for history

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 22, 2000

Bob Price really doesn’t want to own another house, but he will not allow the city to tear down an historical monument.

Saturday, April 22, 2000

Bob Price really doesn’t want to own another house, but he will not allow the city to tear down an historical monument.

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"I’m purchasing the property to save it from destruction," Norton said. "And I will live in it personally and remodel every room. It is a piece of Ironton’s history. And anytime something like this is destroyed, we have lost our history and our heritage."

Price bought the former ironmaster’s home, which is located at 709 Fourth St., this week. And contractor Johnny Nance from The Old House Doctor in Barboursville, W.Va., started cleaning out the property Thursday.

Renovation work is scheduled to begin Monday, if the building permit is ready, Price said.

The city engineer’s office condemned the property March 16 and gave previous owner Mark Murnahan 60 days to fix the site, sell it to a party willing to make repairs or tear it down before further action would be taken, according to the city building officer Karl Wentz.

The house – which once was the home of ironmaster Frederick Drake Norton, who owned Bellefonte Furnace, Bellefonte Nail Mill and the Norton Furnace in Ashland, Ky. – will undergo extensive repairs to bring it back to its former 19th century glory.

"I have plans for every room in the house," Price said. "It will probably take me three to four months to improve the house. Then, to completely renovate, it will take six months to a year. The wallpaper will be authentic to the period of the 1870s and the furniture will be from the 1870s as well."

The home already includes all the original woodwork, shutters and doors, including a grand cherry wood staircase, Price said.

Representatives of the Lawrence County Historical Society and county and city government offices showed up at the house Friday for a tour and to hear what Price has in store for the old home.

"I’m just glad someone bought it and is going to restore it," said Paul Herrell, county commissioner. "I’m interested in this house and want to see it redone. It’s part of the county’s history. That’s our heritage. It is Lawrence County. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever."

Price won’t let that happen, however.

"We’re restoring it completely to the original," he said. "It will be a showcase. Everything will be authentic. There are features in this home that are not available in other homes."

And renovating an historic structure comes with great rewards, said John Elam, who bought the home beside the Norton House five years ago.

"There’s quality in old houses that they don’t have in new houses," Elam said. "You really have to appreciate craftsmanship. This sidewalk is stone instead of concrete – that’s what you get when you buy an old house."

Once the repairs are complete, Price plans to open his new home to the public. It would be a shame to hide such a significant part of Ironton’s history from its residents, Price said.

"It’s going to be on the Homes Tour and the Christmas Tour of Homes," he said. "If someone would like to come in for private visitation, tours can be arranged."

The home will be a sight to behold once it’s complete, historical society member Virginia Bryant said.

"I think it’s beautiful," Mrs. Bryant said. "I’m excited about it. Bob will do a good job. It’s such a part of Ironton and Lawrence County’s history. It is a part of our heritage and he should try to restore it."

And Ironton would be a beautiful city if more people took an interest in cleaning up deteriorating buildings, Ironton City Council member Jesse Roberts said.

"I think it’s wonderful that someone would not only invest in the historical home, but also be committed to keeping the history alive," Roberts said. "Nobody wanted to see this house torn down. There had just not been any action taken. Now, we see an opportunity for it."

Price has been an Ironton resident since 1985. A Virginia native, he moved to South Point in 1957. He is a trustee at the Lawrence County Historical Museum. He also is a docent and on the exhibit committee at the museum.