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36th Annual Ida Lee Willis Memorial Foundation Historic Preservation Awards

Nominations are now being accepted for the 36th Annual Ida Lee Willis Memorial Foundation Historic Preservation Awards, which recognize excellence in the preservation of Kentucky’s historic buildings and cultural resources, including archaeological sites. Contributions can be through investment, advocacy, volunteerism, building partnerships, public involvement, lifelong commitment or significant achievement.

The awards are presented each May, during National Historic Preservation Month, by the Ida Lee Willis Memorial Foundation and Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office.

Nominations are accepted for Preservation Projects, honoring outstanding examples of historic building restoration or rehabilitation, or for other projects that have furthered preservation of Kentucky’s built environment or cultural resources; Service to Preservation, recognizing individuals, organizations, nonprofits, public officials, financial institutions, news media, volunteers and others whose contributions have had a positive impact in their communities; and the Ida Lee Willis Memorial Award, to the individual who has Cox Buildingdemonstrated outstanding dedication to the cause of historic preservation in the Commonwealth.

2013 honorees were the Cox Building in Maysville (shown left); Rockcastle River Historic Truss Bridge; Sadieville Rosenwald School; Nancy Adams, for her work at Pine Mountain Settlement School; Keith Nagle, for his leadership with Discover Downtown Middlesboro; and the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation deTours Committee, for encouraging central Kentucky residents to become more familiar with local history and the process and benefits of adaptive reuse. Stephen L. Collins, of Shelbyville, was recognized with the Memorial Award. Also for the first time, Grassroots Awards were given, for Bethel Church and Cemetery, Pendleton County, and Friends of Sherman Tavern, Dry Ridge.
Nominations may be submitted via email to
kyheritage@ky.gov; by fax, to 502-564-5820; or via mail or in person delivery to the Kentucky Heritage Council, 300 Washington St., Frankfort, KY 40601. Nominations will be reviewed by a panel of judges representing various agencies and nonprofit organizations, including the Kentucky Heritage Council and members of the Ida Lee Willis Memorial Foundation.

All nominations must be received in this office or postmarked by Friday, April 11.

About Ida Lee Willis

Mrs. Ida Lee Willis

The annual statewide historic preservation awards are named for the late Ida Lee Willis, a former Kentucky first lady who was appointed first executive director of the Kentucky Heritage Commission (now the Kentucky Heritage Council) in 1966.  Under her direction, the agency began in earnest to survey the state, nominate sites to the National Register of Historic Places, award grants and promote preservation statewide.

Mrs. Willis was the widow of former Gov. Simeon Willis, and she was directly responsible for saving the historic Vest-Lindsey House in Frankfort, an anchor in Frankfort's "Corner in Celebrities."  The Vest-Lindsey House is one of nearly 40 homes that remain in the Corner in Celebrities, first described by Alice Trabue in her book of the same name, published in 1922.

In the opening paragraphs, Ms. Trabue explains that there is “…a quaint corner of the town from which have sprung, probably, more distinguished men than from any like area I the United States.  Covering about four acres, bounded by four streets bearing the historic names of Washington, Wilkinson, Montgomery and Wapping, is the central group of some noble old houses which sheltered sires and sons whose deeds brought fame and ever lasting glory to Kentucky.”  These include:

  • Supreme Court justices John Marshall Harlan and Thomas Todd
  • Nine United States Senators, including John Brown, first US Senator from KY
  • Six Congressmen
  • Eight Governors including Charles S. Morehead and John Jordan Crittenden
  • Seven foreign ambassadors
  • Three Navy Admirals
  • And John Bibb, nationally prominent as a Senator, Secretary of the Treasury and Assistant Attorney General, who developed Bibb lettuce in the back yard of his Wapping Street home.Vest-Lindsey House

The Vest-Lindsey House was home of a long-time early Kentucky Congressman, George Graham Vest, who is best remembered for his closing trial arguments in an 1870 lawsuit over a man’s killing of his neighbor’s dog.  In his famed “Tribute to a Dog” speech, Vest coined the well-known phrase “Dog is man’s best friend.” In 1846 the house was sold to prominent attorney and state legislator Thomas Noble Lindsey, whose son, Daniel Weisiger Lindsey, was adjutant general and inspector general in charge of all Union Army forces in Kentucky.

The Ida Lee Willis Memorial Foundation was chartered in 1979 to honor Mrs. Willis for her efforts in helping preserve Kentucky’s historic and archaeological resources.  Sally Willis Meigs is her daughter, and she continues her mother’s legacy with her service on the foundation board.  A line drawing of the Vest-Lindsey House serves as the foundation's logo.

For more information:

Scot Walters
Site Development Program Manager
Kentucky Heritage Council
(502) 564-7005, ext. 133

Diane Comer
Public Information Officer
Kentucky Heritage Council
(502) 564-7005, ext. 120


Related Content

2014 Nomination Form and submission instructions
[PDF - 15KB]

2014 Nomination Form, editable
[Word - 36KB]

Awards Criteria
[Word - 423KB]

List of previous winners
[Word - 63KB]

2013 Awards Ceremony


Last Updated 3/14/2014
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