John B. Christie, who owned more commercial buildings in Ashland’s central business district than any other individual, died Wednesday while working at his home in Bellefonte. He was 56.
As founder and owner of Liberty Holding Group, Christie owned, developed and managed many commercial properties and businesses over a 30-year period. Among his many holding was the historic Ben Williamson Supply Co. and building, where Christie grew up working for his late father Wiley B. Christie and came to own and operate the business. When the hardware store downsized and moved to its current location at 2301 Greenup Ave., John Christie renovated its old location on Greenup Avenue between 15th and 16th streets in the heart of downtown Ashland. The large office building now houses the Kentucky Department for Social Services, the local Department for Social Insurance, Food Stamps and Public Assistance, and a number of other public and private offices.
Among the many other properties Christie owned through Liberty Holding Group are the SkyTower, the former home of Star’s Fashion World at Greenup Avenue and 15th Street, and the Putnam Agency building at 16th Street and Winchester Avenue that once was home to Third National Bank (now PNC).
In his obituary, Christie’s family wrote that “John envisioned a thriving downtown Ashland and worked tirelessly to that goal all of his adult life.” While none of his buildings are completely full and some remain vacant, Christie was more successful than many other owners of commercial properties at luring businesses to his buildings. Like his wife, Alison, who survives with their two sons, John Christie was an excellent sales person and a strong advocate for Ashland.
While he never made a show of it, Christie also generously donated space in his buildings to a number of local nonprofit agencies. Christie was a member of First United Methodist Church who had been active in the Ashland Alliance, Ashland Rotary Club, Ashland Elks 350, Ashland Main Street and the Paramount Arts Center.
Christie had a special interest in the Boy Scouts of America, and twice chaired the annual fundraising dinner for Tri-State Boy Scouts. Those two dinners raised more than $60,000.
In 2000, Christie surprised many people by running for mayor of Ashland. His campaign emphasized how he had expressed his faith and confidence in Ashland by investing so heavily in local property. He finished behind then-Mayor Rudy Dunnigan and then-City Commissioner Paul Reeves in the May 2000 primary, but finished ahead of businessman Randy Memmer. With the revently enacted payroll tax the overriding issue, Reeves defeated Dunnigan in the general election that November. Christie never again sought public office but remained active in the community.
Christie was an avid sports car enthusiast who drove his Viper on the race tracks at the Dodge-sponsored Viper Owners Invitational.
There will be a private family burial for Christie, but the family is asking friends and acquaintances to share their memories and stories about Christie, which will be compiled into a memorial scrapbook with pictures.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking donations be made to Safe Harbor, the local domestic violence shelter, to Ashland Main Street, or to a charity of their choice.