The inclusion of a local church complex on the National Register of Historic Places could open doors for further preservation efforts at the Graves County landmark.
The 17-acre campus of St. Jerome Catholic Church in Fancy Farm - which includes St. Jerome Cemetery and seven buildings constructed between 1836 and 1964 - was placed on the register after years of fundraising and rehabilitation efforts from the St. Jerome School 1909 Renovation Committee.
"Now that we have received that designation, we hope more people will realize we're there. It will help economically; it will help with tourism," committee member John Carrico said.
Landmarks included on the national register receive a measure of protection against federally funded projects, and may qualify for federal or state tax credits for certified rehabilitation, according to the Kentucky Heritage Council's web site.
Carrico said the renovation committee hopes to take advantage of a possible 20 percent tax credit as it continues to restore the school.
The committee has raised enough funds - about $65,000 - to complete renovation of two classrooms on the first floor of the school and replace some of the building's windows and doors, Carrico said.
After renovation, one of the classrooms will serve as a social meeting room with a kitchen area, while the other will contain memorabilia related to the Fancy Farm community; the annual Fancy Farm Picnic, which is hosted on the grounds of St. Jerome; and the church complex. Carrico said the committee hopes to complete that phase of renovation by July 1.
He added that the next phase will include renovation of the second floor of the 16,000 square-foot school, which opened in 1909 and served as a school until 1985.
Fundraising efforts to renovate the school began in February 2012. By mid-September of that year, 112 private donors had contributed more than $200,000 to the rehabilitation of St. Jerome School. The committee first intended to nominate only the school for the register, but historical writer Melinda Winchester, who helped prepare the application, suggested they include the entire complex.
The church complex joins 10 other Graves County sites - including two Confederate memorials, a U.S. post office, the Mayfield downtown commercial district, and the Mayfield Electric and Water Systems - already on the register.
"We do think that with this designation, more people will become interested in what we're doing here. With that, we think there will be additional funds, so we're very, very pleased," Carrico said.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.
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