Ten top buildings to see in Central Kentucky

bfortune@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2011 

Spindletop Hall included 40 rooms, 14 bathrooms, 133 doors and 11 fireplaces when it was completed in 1937. The University of Kentucky bought the 45,000-square-foot building on Iron Works Pike in 1959 for $850,000. File photo by David Stepenson


Central Kentucky might not be in the ranks of Chicago as a mecca of outstanding architecture, but the area is not without interesting buildings.

Many are historic, like Old Morrison at Transylvania University. A few are contemporary.

Several private residences are worth seeing, although not all can be seen from the road, like the acclaimed Miller House on Chilesburg Road, designed by architect Jose Oubrerie while dean of the University of Kentucky College of Architecture (now the College of Design). Oubrerie began his career as an assistant to legendary French architect Le Corbusier, considered by many as the most important architect of the 20th century.

And don't forget about the enormous castle on Versailles Road, conceived as one man's architectural folly and now considered a community landmark.

Here are a few other buildings worth seeing:

Bourbon County Courthouse, Paris. Completed in 1905 with a dome similar to the nation's Capitol, the building is a great example of a county courthouse in the middle of the town square. Floors are Italian marble. Inside the dome are murals depicting Kentucky's cash crops at the turn of the century: hemp, horses and cattle, bluegrass seed and tobacco.

Bondurant Pharmacy, Village Drive. This whimsical structure is shaped like a mortar and pestle. The pharmacy closed earlier this year. Let's hope the building isn't torn down.

Kentucky State Capitol, Frankfort. This building offers a bit of French influence in Frankfort. The dome on the Capitol, completed in 1910, is modeled after the Hotel Des Invalides in Paris, the burial place of Napoleon Bonaparte. The stairways resemble those of the Opera de Paris. The Governor's Mansion next door, opened in 1914, is patterned after the Petit Trianon villa in Versailles, France.

Pope Villa, 326 Grosvenor Avenue. This structure is one of the few remaining examples of the work of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Spindletop Hall, 3414 Iron Works Pike. This 45,000-square-foot mansion includes 40 rooms, each originally with its own thermostat. The house was completed in 1937 for $1 million by Pansy Yount, widow of Texas oilman Miles Yount who, in 1925, struck oil in the Spindletop field in Beaumont, Texas.

Elley Villa, 320 Linden Walk. An outstanding example of Gothic Revival architecture, this villa was built about 1850 by Lexington's prolific architect John McMurty.

Unitarian Universalist Church, 3564 Clays Mill Road. For this limited-budget project, the congregation requested a house of worship that related to the Earth and life around them, more than to heaven. Designed by architect Herb Greene in 1965, the building looks a bit like the Star Trek spaceship, Enterprise.

Ernst Johnson house, 1610 Ashwood Drive. An excellent example of a Prairie-style ranch house, this stone and brick home has signature horizontal windows and wide eaves with a low pitched hip roof. It was built about 1950 by Johnson, a Lexington architect, as his own home. Johnson built several buildings on the UK campus, including the Funkhouser and Fine Arts buildings.

Matthew Kennedy House, 216 North Limestone. Built about 1820 by Kennedy, Lexington's first distinguished architect. Owned by members of the Ginocchio and Buchignani family since 1909. Today it's a home furnishings and gift shop, Mulberry & Lime.

Floral Hall, 847 South Broadway. Built in 1882 by John McMurtry, this building originally was an exhibit hall for floral displays for what was then the Fair Grounds. The octagonal shape reflects the popularity at the time of unusual shaped buildings. It's on National Register of Historic Places.

More Central Kentucky bucket lists:

Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3251

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