Commonwealth Journal

September 6, 2012

Pillars of Faith

Salvaging 132-year-old Methodist Church columns was a monumental task

by Don White, CJ Features Correspondent
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — Being aware of the phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day” may be helping historian and former literature teacher Larry Witt deal with delays in getting his own columns erected.

It all began 20 years ago when the Casey County native moved from Bronston to his current two-story brick home on Hwy. 39.

The professional photographer spotted four very large concrete posts lying atop a wagon at the home of Jimmy Edwards, just north of Pulaski High.

‘They looked like they might make a great background in my back yard for wedding photography,” says Witt.

Edwards, now 82, had no interest in selling, telling Witt his plan was to erect them on the front of his two-story house that is now surrounded by PCHS athletic fields.

The supports, weighing nearly 10,000 pounds each, were part of the old Methodist Church on East Mt. Vernon Street in Somerset. They had been in place there since 1880. Edwards purchased them in 1970, when the church was torn down to make way for the current structure.

In September of last year, armed with new inspiration after traveling through Harrodsburg and seeing similar posts under the front porches of historic homes, Witt decided to approach Edwards one more time.

“I had been turned down on six visits over a 20-year period, but this time Jimmy had come to the realization that his potential for using them had ended.

“I felt sorry for him, that he had never got around to fulfilling his dream, and I plan to videotape him talking about them.”

Witt paid $2,500 for all four massive structures, and Edwards helped him load them on a trailer, using a backhoe and securing them with nylon straps for the short trip up Hwy. 39.

An engine hoist was used for the square parts, and the posts were rolled off Witt’s trailer and into his front yard.

A boom truck was used to place the posts under the porch this past January, and efforts to complete the project are on-going.

“I’ve already spent 10 times what I paid for them in getting them up and looking nice at my house,” says the personable Sunday School teacher at East Somerset Baptist.

The recently added front porch features a copper ceiling that Witt feels serves as a good background for the posts.

After being pressure washed and bleached, the new owner feels they’re still not as “pristine” as he would like, and he’s trying to avoid painting them.

“I would hate to put paint on something that’s been around for so many years,” he says of the historic piece of Pulaski’s past, noting they were delivered here by a train out of Stanford.

Having them sand blasted is under consideration.

Although not a native, Witt became aware of the beauty and history of Somerset at an early age.

He often came over from Casey with his dad, Wallace, when he operated the Mary Carter Paint Store on East Mt. Vernon Street, next door to where Candido Towing & Recovering is presently.

Now 91 and living in Louisville, Wallace still drives down to Somerset from time to time to visit family.

Larry moved to Somerset in 1982 following a teaching stint at Casey High and after deciding a career in education wasn’t for him.

He opened Top House Pizza here before starting a photography business called Picture Paradise in a building behind the courthouse formerly occupied by Jim Burdine.

The name later became Photography by Larry Witt, and the business is now operated out of his home.

He and his wife, the former Connie Cassidy, a 1983 Pulaski High graduate, have two children, Morgan, 15, and Braxton, 12. Connie assists in the photography business.

The family travels extensively, taking pictures of youth sport teams from Cincinnati to Knoxville.

There are also lots of trips for pleasure as Larry takes part in Civil War re-enactments, the latest being at Blue Licks Battlefield in northern Kentucky.

Witt gets lots of stares when decked out in his full dress uniform, but he’s used to it.

“There for awhile, people were about stopping in the middle of the road to stare at my porch.”

He says the project should be complete in another couple of months.