Gratz Park neighborhood opens garden gates for a tour

Gratz Park neighborhood offers tours of yards, gardens

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comJune 22, 2012 

  • Gratz Park Secret Gardens, Fountains & Patios tour

    When: 1-6 p.m. June 24

    Where: 11 homes around Gratz Park, 250 W. Third St.

    Tickets: Available beneath the arch in the park. $15; free for children younger than 10 with paying adult.


    The area of Gratz Park was listed as "Outlot 6" in the original town plan for Lexington.

    In 1824, Benjamin Gratz, remembered for his civic involvement, bought the house at 231 North Mill Street. It remained in his family until 1984.

    During the Civil War, the park was used as a parade ground and staging area for Union troops.

    Three houses on Sunday's tour — 239, 243 and 247 North Mill Street — were built by Mrs. William Cassius Goodloe in the Queen Anne style for her daughters. The houses are sometimes referred to as "the three sisters."

    Source: Gratz Park Neighborhood Association

All of us have wanted to peek over a wall, sneak a look through a fence or strain to catch a glimpse of something just out of view.

The Gratz Park Neighborhood Association is offering a chance to do just that on Sunday with a tour called Secret Gardens, Fountains & Patios.

Opening the gates into the private gardens is a first for the neighborhood, said Carolyn Hackworth, who co-chairs the event with Sharon Reed and Geneva Davidson.

"These are all gardens that are not seen from the street," she said.

Visitors will have a chance to see 11 gardens in the historic neighborhood near downtown, including Hackworth's small patio garden, a space with a lap pool and what is thought to be one of the oldest elm trees in Lexington.

Some homeowners have extended their indoor space, creating outdoor "rooms," such as the three neatly arranged sections behind the gate at 258 Market Street. There, even espaliered pear trees add to the décor, creating a green patchwork on a red-brick wall.

Hackworth suggests allowing two to three hours for a leisurely stroll through all the gardens. Homeowners will be on hand to answer questions.

Hackworth can share with visitors the history of a 200-year-old ginkgo tree that is thought to have been planted by Lucretia Clay, the wife of noted 19th-century statesman Henry Clay.

Hopefully, she said, people can find some inspiration for their own homes on the tour. "We certainly hope so," she said.

The garden tour came about because the neighborhood association, which has staged Christmas home tours, was looking for a novel approach to fund-raising.

Hackworth said her neighbors were happy to allow visitors into their gardens. "We had a really good response," she said.

Proceeds from the tour will go toward maintaining and improving Gratz Park. Designer John Michler recently completed landscaping in front of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, at one end of the park, that was financed through the neighborhood association and a matching grant from the city.

The liriope, native ferns, elephant ears and hostas are now on display in front of the center.

No matter how large a housing budget you might have, the garden tour might be the only chance for most folks to see behind the walls. People who live there tend to stay a while, Hackworth said.

She and her husband, John, have been in the neighborhood for 12 years, living in what is known as the Peter Paul House. She said, "We're still kind of the newcomers."

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog:

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