Belongings of former Ky. first lady Phyllis George to be auctioned

ksheridan@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2011 

Eighty-nine lots of former Kentucky first lady Phyllis George's possessions will be auctioned off this weekend in Asheville, N.C.

George approached the auction house to sell her collection, which includes quilts, paintings and Derby hats, said Karen Swager of Brunk Auctions.

Most of the items were collected by George while she was Kentucky's first lady. Many were collected to furnish historical Cave Hill, which she and her former husband, John Y. Brown, bought in 1979 and which temporarily served as the governor's mansion. It also was the couple's private residence after Brown finished his term as governor.

"She was very interested in quilts," Swager said. "She published a book called Living With Quilts: Fifty Great American Quilts, and a couple of those quilts are in the auction."

One of the quilts is an 1854 sampler quilt that Brown gave George and that hung at Cave Hill. Many of the other lots are works from artists featured in George's book about Kentucky crafts or were gifts from the governor.

George said she is selling the pieces because they'd been in storage for the past 15 years.

"These things were boxed up. Unused and unloved," she said Wednesday. "It's a positive thing. Someone's going to love these things, and they're part of history."

George began going through her storage units in January and consulting her children about which pieces they wanted.

"It was a humongous project," she said. "It was very hard to do."

George said she still loves all the pieces, but many just don't fit her lifestyle anymore. She is currently "living out of a suitcase" and traveling between Athens, Ga., and Atlanta.

She is talking to her publisher about another book and working on a new crafts Web site. The site features Kentucky art and crafts but will soon expand to feature work from the Southern Highlands.

George is trying to downsize and re-evaluate the way she views her old possessions, she said.

"She had a lot of attachment to them as a great time in her life, but you can't keep things forever," Swager said. "Her items will be a nice complement to the rest of the auction."

The piece that is expected to sell for the highest price from her collection is a painting of a Parisian flower market by Constantin Kluge. It's expected to sell for between $3,000 and $5,000.

George's pieces and the rest of the auction catalogue can be found at Brunkauctions.com.

Reach Kelsey Sheridan at (859) 231-3344.

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