Milly Ann Stewart, Gov. Matt Bevin among recipients of 2019 Ida Lee Willis Memorial Foundation Historic Preservation Awards

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 30, 2019) – The 40th annual presentation of the Ida Lee Willis Memorial Foundation Historic Preservation Awards took place Wednesday at Berry Hill Mansion in Frankfort honoring excellence in the preservation of Kentucky’s historic buildings and cultural resources. The program is sponsored in partnership with the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office.

Mrs. Milly Ann Stewart received the highest honor bestowed during the ceremony, the Ida Lee Willis Memorial Award, for her lifetime of service and philanthropy on behalf of many of Kentucky’s most iconic historic sites, including the Stewart Home and School, Liberty Hall and the Orlando Brown House, and the Old State Capitol in Frankfort. Among other accomplishments, she chaired the “Save the Mansion” campaign under Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. and First Lady Phyllis George Brown, to restore and modernize the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion in the early 1980s.

“Through her legacy of giving and quiet support for many of Kentucky’s most important and venerated historic buildings, Mrs. Stewart has indeed made a significant and lasting impact on helping preserve these places for many generations of Kentuckians yet to come,” said Steve Collins, foundation chair, making the presentation.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin received a Service to Preservation Award for exemplary stewardship of state-owned historic properties, principally for working with the Finance and Administration Cabinet to initiate plans and dedicate $2 million for repairs and exterior cleaning of the Kentucky State Capitol, which had not been done since the Beaux Arts-style building’s dedication in 1910.

Other service award winners were Michael and Catherine McElwain of Newport, for long-time civic engagement and their work on behalf of the community’s West End, and for helping survey and document the historic Buena Vista neighborhood with a goal to get the district listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Herb Fink of Louisville was cited for his dedication as a major preservation organizer and planner working on behalf of the Old Louisville neighborhood and Central Park, and for leadership roles including service as a member of the Old Louisville Architectural Review Committee since its inception.

Preservation Project Awards went to Castle & Key in Woodford County, with founding partners Wes Murry and Will Arvin honored for the rehabilitation and preservation of multiple buildings and landscape features at what was originally the Old Taylor Distillery, which had been vacant and crumbling prior to their investment.

The Shoppes at Blue Gables in Shelbyville, and the nonprofit Shelbyville Preservation Group, also earned a project award for rehabilitating a deteriorated local landmark, the 1939 Blue Gables Motel, into a retail and shopping space that once again contributes to the economic vitality of downtown.

Owner Todd Thomas was cited for restoration of a community landmark, The Ole Opera House in Guthrie, a project located in a National Register district that utilized state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits, created jobs, and served as a catalyst for additional downtown development.

Grassroots Preservation Awards are presented at the discretion of the awards selection committee and honor those who take on projects that have great impact at the local level. Scott Lewis and his son, Trevor, were recognized for their investment in the 1891 Beaver Dam Deposit Bank building, one of the city’s oldest structures, converting it into a popular restaurant and re-establishing it as a hub for community activity.

Dinah Bird-Westerfield of Augusta was honored for purchasing the historic Abraham Baker wine cellar, a large vaulted space built of native Kentucky limestone – thought to be the last remaining wine cellar of its type in the country – and re-establishing it as the Baker-Bird Winery.

The awards are presented each May, National Historic Preservation Month, and celebrate advocacy, investment, volunteerism, building partnerships, public involvement, lifelong commitment, or significant achievement. They are named for the first executive director of the state historic preservation office.

For additional information and comments from yesterday’s ceremony, contact Diane Comer at 502-892-3611. Photos are available at

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An agency of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, the Kentucky Heritage Council / State Historic Preservation Office is responsible for the identification, protection, and preservation of prehistoric resources and historic buildings, sites, and cultural resources throughout the Commonwealth, in partnership with other state and federal agencies, local communities, and interested citizens.