WeatherBerry will likely require 12 months to become botanical garden’s new entrance

October 5, 2020 | 12:09 am

Updated October 5, 2020 | 3:02 pm

Photo by AP Imagery

In September, the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden finalized the purchase of WeatherBerry, a historic home on Second Street that will become the nonprofit’s new visitor center. 

“This will take the garden out of hiding,” said Laurna Strehl, WKBG executive director. “We’re hoping this will make us feel more a part of downtown.” 

But don’t expect to visit the 180-year-old house too soon. WeatherBerry will first require significant changes, including a new address, map and parking structure. WKBG will be working with engineers, architects and Owensboro’s planning and zoning committees to construct the new entryway while ensuring safety and ADA standards. 

Strehl estimated that this process could require 12 months or longer to complete.  

WeatherBerry boasts about 3,800 square feet indoors with thick crown moldings, 12-foot ceilings, a wooden staircase and multiple fireplaces. The first floor contains five rooms that will be divided into rental space, a gift shop, a kitchen and an office. 

The indoor rental space will allow for about 50 people for seated events. WeatherBerry’s wrap-around porches, which overlook nearly four acres of trees, gardens and a fountain, will be appropriate for baby showers, bridal parties and tea luncheons, according to Strehl. 

“It’s a game-changer,” Strehl said about the house’s potential for community gatherings. “It’s a step above what we have now. We don’t have to create the environment, it’s just there.” 

The transaction happened quickly. In July, the nonprofit was still proceeding with a long-term plan to construct a visitor center, gift shop and pavilion. But when the pricetag of WeatherBerry dropped by $100,000, a board member cited the opportunity during an August meeting. WKBG submited an offer days later. 

The board did admit some “trepidation” with purchasing an older house, but they ultimately voted in favor of WeatherBerry’s atmosphere, history and visibility, according to Strehl. 

For now, the botanical garden will function similarly as the construction unfolds. After streamlining the initial groundwork, Strehl hopes to dive into the artistic details, such as how to decorate the house and what to sell in the gift shop — a feature that has been requested by the community for many years. 

“I’m not to the fun stuff yet,” Strehl said. “There is so much to do.” 

The to-do list includes aggressive fundraising. WKBG began with an online raffle for bourbon. 

October 5, 2020 | 12:09 am

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