Bill Monroe Homeplace to stay put in Ohio County

For the past 15 years or thereabouts the subject of Bill Monroe’s first home, the Homeplace near Rosine, Kentucky, has been one of what has sometimes been a very bitter dispute.  

In the early years of the millennium the Bill Monroe Foundation, later the Monroe Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that oversaw the $3 million rebuilding of the Monroe house, were involved in a squabble with Hartford, Kentucky, businessman Hayward Spinks over the use of some of Spinks’ property, which surrounds the five-acre, Ohio County-owned Monroe homeplace.

That spilled over into a dispute that affected Campbell Mercer and his running of the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Festival, staged to increase the attraction to visitors of the Jerusalem Ridge and Rosine area, wherein lies Bill Monroe’s grave.  

At one time Spinks allowed the use of his land in connection the staging of the festival, then changed his mind, and in the middle of these melees is the Ohio County Fiscal Court.

According to the local Ohio County Monitor, “Several weeks ago, the Ohio County Fiscal Court advertised for bids to sell a double-wide modular home [aka the ranger station] on Jerusalem Ridge, near the Bill Monroe Homeplace. While the county owns the modular home, it does not own the land on which the mobile home sits. Previously, members of the Bill Monroe Foundation resided in the modular home for security purposes and to oversee the grounds.”

Now Ohio County Fiscal Court is proposing to move the Monroe Homeplace to Everett Park, land that it owns in Rosine and where they are going to build the Bill Monroe Museum.

During a Fiscal Court meeting on March 28 (2017) Third District Magistrate Joe Barnes proposed that they seek bids on the cost of moving the 100-year-old Bill Monroe Homeplace off the James B. Monroe farm. The motion was passed unanimously.

However, there may be a fly in the ointment, the Bill Monroe Homeplace is on the National Register of Historic Places. Being on the National Register does not protect the structure in any way, but should the home be moved from Jerusalem Ridge, the National Register designation is likely to be lost.

While there was a unanimous decision within the Ohio County Fiscal Court to support the proposal two notables from the bluegrass music world who both have a close affinity to the Father of Bluegrass Music were very much against the project …
 
James William Monroe II, Bill Monroe’s grandson, commented ….

“So you’re going to consider sawing my Grandfather’s home, he was born in…into “2” pieces and moving it?..What a brilliant idea, maybe you can move all your historic sites into one location…how sad and short minded”

Former Blue Grass Boy Tom Ewing is also against the idea and expresses his views in a typically forthright manner ..

“In their ignorance, they don’t realize the true significance of the Monroe Homeplace. More so than almost any other historical site in Kentucky, it combines ‘home’ with ‘place.’ Tear the home away from the place and all that’s left is just a house.”

Two weeks ago (April 13, 2017) I was advised by our local contact, bluegrass bass player Kristy Westerfield, “This past Tuesday night they had not received any bids on moving the home place. They are in hopes in the next two weeks to get some bids then vote at that time.”

So much for the background to early and recent activity that might have brought about the re-location of the Bill Monroe Homeplace.  

Earlier today, Kristy brought us an update from last night’s meeting of Ohio County Fiscal Court, “It [the Bill Monroe Homeplace] WILL stay at the original spot, the James B. Monroe farm. The doublewide, aka ‘ranger station’ will be moved to the five acres the county owns. No bids were received to move the home place.”

Perhaps local appreciation of the Bill Monroe Homeplace had a part to play in this lack of bids. I expect that many residents will breathe a sigh of relief content that the historic building – in its rightful place – will continue to be a big tourist attraction, bringing bluegrass enthusiasts from all over the world to visit the site.

Footnote:

Kristy adds, “I will soon be starting a project to get state signage changed on the Natcher and Western Kentucky parkways for the Bill Monroe Homeplace.”

We wish Kristy the best in this very necessary aim, and look forward to hearing more from her about this. 

Share this:

About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.

  • Mike Bromley

    Right on, Tom Ewing. Poke ’em in the eye. Myopic bureaucrats and grubbing landowners.

  • oldk

    Tom Ewing – always solid. What a tragedy it would be to move that home away from the area that so many of the songs were wrote about. It would be like moving the Ryman Auditorium to NYC.