William Tarr House: Abandoned Antebellum

In the American South, the state of Kentucky holds the William Tarr House. Located near the small town of Millersburg, the world knows this abandoned beauty not only for its looks but for its complex history.

History of William Tarr

William Tarr was well-established throughout Kentucky for his entrepreneurial skills. Tarr dabbled in all sorts of businesses, including farming, real estate, railroads, and most famously, whiskey making. Tarr started earning his fortune by farming watermelons with his brother, and the two went on to trade mules as well.

In 1863, Tarr became a partner in the Chicken C Distillery in Kentucky, bringing him even more income. The distillery grew, and Tarr sold his share of the company, continuing to increase his fortune. Eventually, he became the proprietor of the Ashland Distilling Company.

In 1873, Tarr’s wife, Sarah (known by her middle name Findlay), passed away. This left Tarr with two young children to take care of on his own. Tarr remarried (to a younger sister of his late wife) and purchased a home for his fledgling family. The pair would go on to have three children together. A.J. Hitt, a mill operator, designed and built the Tarr House, but Tarr wasn’t content with the design and set out to make a unique estate for his family.

William Tarr House

The William Tarr House has many unique features not seen in houses built after the Civil War. The property is considered a Federal-style building which is typically smaller and understated. The William Tarr House was enlarged to contain specific Italianate features like the main entryway. It was created using Flemish-bond brickwork.

The Tarr house also had inset balconies complete with balustrades (detailed railings), curved brick walls, and large staircases. Wood paneling throughout the mansion was intricately carved by hand, and the cornices were embellished. The estate was occupied for over a hundred years, from 1877 to 1985.

Current State of The House

Over 35 years have come and gone since anyone lived in the Tarr house, allowing the once immaculate mansion to fall into significant disrepair. Opportunistic vandals, tourists, and photographers have ransacked the property leaving it in disarray. History can attribute the downfall of the Tarr family to the prohibition. Once the prohibition set in, many people stole Tarr’s whiskey from government facilities and his distilleries.

You can observe the following conditions in the family’s historic mansion:

  • Paint and wallpaper peeled from the walls
  • Bits of plaster litter the floors
  • Overgrown trees, bushes, and weeds overwhelm the land
  • Dilapidated shutters hang from their hinges

You can expect some of these things from an abandoned house. Yet, despite these flaws, you can see the Italian influence in the archways of the home. Its many rooms indicate the many children that ran through and played outside. The William Tarr House remains a hauntingly beautiful property, unlike anything found in the American South.

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