Tyler Family Buildings

Blackacre State Nature Preserve

In 1985, approximately 600 acres that surround Blackacre were dedicated by the U.S. National Park Service as the Tyler Settlement Rural Historic District. Below is a statement of significance that was included in the nomination form.

The District is significant in terms of settlement patterns and practices, architecture, and transportation, and it reflects the Tyler family's settlement and development of this part of Jefferson County from the late 18th century through the first part of the 20th century. Edward Tyler came to Jefferson County (which was then still part of Virginia) from Virginia in 1779 or 1780 with his sons Edward, Jr.; Moses; William; and Robert Tyler, thought to be a nephew. The Tylers were early settlers of eastern Jefferson County who owned extensive land holdings and were prominent in the agriculture, politics, and social affairs of the county. Familiar patterns of migration and settlement are apparent in the district, with members of a family leaving or granting portions of land to their children for their own farmsteads.

Significant patterns of 18th- and 19th-century architecture, rural life, and farming practices in Jefferson County are evident in the three clusters, which contain a characteristic arrangement of dwellings and unattached outbuildings. The Moses Tyler-Presley Tyler Farm, for example, is one of the best-preserved farm complexes in Jefferson County. The quality of stone work in the district, the transitional vernacular and stylistic associations of the two 19th-century brick houses, and the surviving examples of log construction also add to the significance to the district.

The Barn

Moses Tyler's old, 1790-vintage log barn tells a story. It's a story of connection between people and the land.

In clearing the land and making it productive, the Tylers ended up with the materials they needed to build their barn. The massive poplar trees (Liriodendron tulipifera), which were seedlings in the 1600s, were cut down before the family developed fields and planted crops to feed their farm animals.

The poplar logs in the barn at Blackacre were probably cut down in the winter when there was no sap in the trunks, which kept the bark on the logs for a longer period of time. If ice or snow were on the ground, it made it easier to move the logs to the site where they were shaped with hand tools such as an adz and a broad ax.

The logs were trimmed at each end so that they would fit, similar to the way your fingers lock when you make one big fist with both hands. The logs were held together with wooden pegs, which were superior to nails for holding logs together.

1915

1981

 

 

The Stone Cottage

The 1790 stone house in which Moses and Phoebe Tyler and their family of 10 sons lived was probably an early addition to a slightly older dwelling next door. It was the custom to quickly build a log or crude wooden dwelling to have a roof overhead while a more substantial house was built. There is evidence that the Tylers first built some sort of house just to the east of the stone house, and, at some point, built the stone house and joined the two together. It appears that the structure fell into disrepair or was abandoned or eventually burned down. According to folklore, this is when the back part of the main house, the kitchen and a room above for slaves, was thought to be built. The eastern gable of the stone house shows that the stone is slightly different from the rest of the house. Not only does it look like it came from a different quarry, but it is laid in a pattern that does not match or line up with everything else. In addition, there is a noticeable seam that runs up and down where the new wall must have been built.

However, another possible history for the stone cottage is told in the Tyler Settlement Rural Historic District Application form for the U.S. National Park Service:   "Until recently it has been believed that Moses Tyler lived in the stone house adjacent to the brick house on the Moses Tyler-Presley Tyler farm until his death in 1839. Based on comparisons of similar surviving structures, it now appears more likely that the stone house was a slave dwelling....The stone house has a simple interior and retains an enclosed stair that appears to be original. The stone house was once connected by a breezeway to a log slave house (since demolished). This connection may indicate that the stone house was, indeed, a slave dwelling and not a Tyler residence." (p. 19, "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form")

The Main House


When the Tylers first settled Blackacre they did their own building. They did not call up a real estate developer, an architect, or a contractor and tell him/her to build a house. Those jobs did not exist on the frontier. Instead, the family members and slaves gathered and shaped the stone, cut down the trees, and finished the lumber to build their homes and outbuildings.

The brick house is actually a combination of two houses joined together. The back, shorter part was built first, possibly as early as 1810, and has a kitchen, a downstairs, and a bedroom above. Viewed from the front, the house is an I-style house, with two rooms on each floor connected by a central entry hall and stairway. This style house was becoming popular in Kentucky and had been common in Virginia. Presley Tyler included several features to the house that make it appear more impressive because the road in front of Presley's house was a public road, How do you make a good impression architecturally? Presley had a porch built, which was the newest and most modern Greek Revival-style porch available. Presley Tyler also incorporated a brick cornice on his house. That is the bit of architectural detail where the wall meets the roof. It is what experts call a "dentilated" cornice, because the bricks are set in such a way that they look like teeth. What is remarkable about Presley's 1844 dentilated cornice is that there are actually two cornices. There is one long cornice that runs all the way across the front of the house and a shorter cornice on the side of the house, making an impression on any traveler coming up the road.

The brick house is actually a combination of two houses joined together. The back, shorter part was built first, possibly as early as 1810, and has a kitchen, a downstairs, and a bedroom above. Viewed from the front, the house is an I-style house, with two rooms on each floor connected by a central entry hall and stairway. This style house was becoming popular in Kentucky and had been common in Virginia.
Presley Tyler included several features to the house that make it appear more impressive because the road in front of Presley's house was a public road, How do you make a good impression architecturally? Presley had a porch built, which was the newest and most modern Greek Revival-style porch available.

The Springhouse

Why a springhouse? Well, the Tylers had food they needed to keep from rotting. In the pioneer days before refrigeration, this was possible in the fall or winter in two or three ways: smoke it, pack it in salt, or let the natural coolness of spring water circulate around the food. Nearly every farm in this period had access to a springhouse. Judging from the kind of stone-its color, shape, size, and the pattern in which it was laid-the springhouse at Moses Tyler's place probably dates from about 1790, just when Moses and the rest of the Tylers started to settle the area between Chenoweth Run and Floyds Fork.

The springhouse sits on the bank of the same hill next to which Moses built his house. In fact, the two aren't more than just a few feet from each other. At some point after it was built, the springhouse was enlarged. It's hard to say exactly when, but if you look carefully, you'll notice that the stone right under the eaves of the roof is just a little different in color. You can also plainly see the slanting lines where the roof used to sit on the walls before it was raised.

The Weaving Shed

There is one more significant Tyler-period building at the Blackacre site. Actually, it may be one of the most important buildings in Jefferson County, but it takes a detective to figure out its mysteries. It sits behind Presley's house, facing the smokehouse and backing up to the barnyard behind it. This little frame building has seen a lot of changes. Right now, it contains the weaving looms and other cloth-making tools used as part of the Environmental Education Program run at Blackacre by the Jefferson County Public Schools.

Inside the weaving shed, you'll see at some point the building was used to store carriages. Look up at the beams that help support the roof and you can see square holes that once contained hardware used to rig pulleys for lifting a wagon bed from the wheels and axles below.

But before the weaving shed served as a carriage house, it was something else entirely. There's one wall left that hasn't been entirely changed, meaning that it most likely dates from about 1790 or the very early part of the 1800s. It is the wall that faces Presley's house and the wall that holds a clue about the original use of this little building.

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Yager House

Gilliland House

Abraham Funk House

Ben Stout House

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Masonic Hall

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