Saturday, February 9, 2013

Coy Buggy House

This is an extract from an essay by Candace Moberly, published in Heritage Highlights, v.9, no.2.

Coy Buggy House
In the vanishing number of farm-related outbuildings in Madison County, there remains one brick buggy house standing alone against a landscape certain for development. While many 19th and early 20th century outbuildings have either been destroyed or fallen into decay and disrepair, a comparative remaining handful remind us of dramatic changes wrought by 20th century technology. Hundreds pass by the “Coy Building” daily, most likely unaware of its function or its symbolic value.
I’ve literally passed this building thousands of times in my life, as my parents and grandparents have done before me and it stands like a lone sentinel against an otherwise modern setting, which is quickly yielding to residential and commercial development.
It was in fact a phone call from a neighbor that prompted my interest in the “Coy Buggy House.” My father, a lifelong resident of Madison County, received a phone call last fall from a non-native neighbor asking “What in the heck is that funky old building anyway?” My dad told him that it was his understanding that it was an old buggy house or garage and this inquiry has set me on a quest to learn more about it.
Since last fall, I’ve learned that there are only a relative handful of buggy houses that have survived in this area. This simple, sturdy two-story example butted up against a quarried limestone fence is one most urgently needing protection and the most well-known and visible among those that remain.
          Efforts to research the history of this unique structure have yielded little in the way of hard data. Known as the Nay Coy farm, this 273-acre tract lies on the very southern edge of Richmond on US 25 South in Madison County and is currently for sale by the Coy heirs. While there exist official records, deeds of conveyance and the like, they are silent concerning the Buggy House or any nearby dwelling which has never been given a local name.  This is ironic because it remains one of the most well-known structures in the county.
          Various attempts to locate “tribal elders” in the area that know anything about its history have been exercises in futility. Everyone seems to know someone that should know something about it. The oral history quest provided some comic relief along the way. In the 1950’s, the owners, known for their extreme frugality, reportedly closed up their beautiful three-story Victorian mansion in Richmond and sequestered themselves in the upstairs one room living quarters of the buggy house to save money.  To that end, you could say that it housed a commercial enterprise because the owner had a large sign by building which read, “Bulls for sale” and gave a phone number to contact. This phone number was not his own, which he was too stingy to pay for, but rather the number for the Elk’s Lodge in Richmond of which he was a member.  Presumably some loafing brother Elk would relay the message to Mr. Coy.
          Another elusive tidbit was the rumor that over thirty years ago, that a group of architecture students came from Cincinnati to examine the architecture of the Coy Buggy House. One of the current owners has confirmed that numerous architects have expressed interest in the structure over the years. However, in the end, the old landmark must document--testify for itself and its own historical and architectural worth in the absence of public records, published histories or testimonies.

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