19th Annual East Row Garden Walk, Saturday & Sunday, June 6 & 7, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Tickets: $15. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.
For the seventeenth year visitors to Newport's East Row neighborhood will be swept up by more than the majestic homes that have dotted the tree lined streets for nearly a century and a half.
The feature this weekend won't be the towering turrets or rounded Victorian porches, though those will still surely impress; Instead, guests will be invited 'round back and along the sides of these impressive homes for the 2015 East Row Garden Walk.
"It's fantastic. It brings so many people to town here," said resident Mark Ramler who will open his backyard to visitors. He bought his home on 4th Street in 2008 while still a graduate student at the University of Kentucky. After fully restoring what had been a multifamily property, Ramler moved in full-time in 2010.
But something, even five years later, remained incomplete.
The backyard was but a patch of grass that opened to an alley where at one time four wooden slabs constituted off-street parking. This would be the year that Ramler would finally get around to improving his outdoor space with the same passion with which he completely transformed what had been a neglected historic property and is now an impressively restored and decorated home.
And he didn't do it alone.
"A lot of hours my family and friends have been down here. I couldn't have done it without some help," he said. "But we're going to enjoy this all summer long."
There is much to enjoy now that the yard has been expertly fenced in and now features an all-brick patio that Ramler and his father installed last weekend. Many items that one might typically see on the inside of a home have made their way to the outside, creating an interesting use in this new outdoor oasis in the middle of the city. A clawfoot bathtub will be scrubbed and filled with a special sight this weekend (thought that project is still forthcoming this week) and a fireplace/mantle piece align one of the walls. Window frames and shutters have been hung along the fence, decked out with planters.
At Ramler's place, though, even some of the plants are being reused, transferred from family properties across Kentucky. "Some of the ground coverings have traveled the state from relatives' yards," Ramler told The River City News. "A lot of the stuff I use back here is salvaged stuff. It takes a lot of trial and error. I'll hang it and move it and finally I'll get it right."
This weekend, visitors will see just how right he's gotten it and that East Row is more than just the beautiful old houses.