Cave Hill, the historic Lexington estate that served as Kentucky's temporary governor's mansion when John Y. Brown Jr. was in office, sold for $800,000 at a master commissioner's sale Monday at the Fayette County Courthouse.
The successful — and only — bid was submitted by Lexington attorney Eric Case on behalf of Logan Asset Backed Fund, which held the mortgage on the property at 2601 Old Cave Hill Lane off Man o' War Boulevard, near Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.
Cave Hill went into foreclosure after Washington constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein and his wife, Mattie, defaulted on a $1.3 million mortgage from Logan, a private lender in Boca Raton, Fla.
After the auction, Case said Logan intends to put the property back on the market. The Feins never moved into Cave Hill, and the mansion has stood empty since they bought it three years ago. The grounds are overgrown, littered with downed trees and branches, and the house needs extensive work.
"Even if it's gone down, it's still a beautiful Kentucky landmark," Case said, "and somebody's going to get it for a discounted but fair price."
The house, part of which dates to 1821, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A report of the sale will be filed by the master commissioner with Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone in the next 30 to 60 days, and Case will file a motion confirming the sale.
"At that point, we get deed to the property," Case said.
Numerous people indicated an interest in buying Cave Hill after they read that it was in foreclosure, Case said, and his client has always been willing to sell.
"Bruce and Mattie Fein haven't cooperated all along on helping us sell the property," he said.
Monday's purchase by Logan "gives my client 100 percent control over the future of Cave Hill," Case said.
Ron Turner, founder of the Lexington-based electrical contracting firm Amteck of Kentucky and owner of the Signature Club on Lansdowne Drive, attended Monday's sale. He had looked at the property Friday.
"I was shocked at the condition," Turner said later. "Eighty five percent of the ceilings have fallen in. The paint is peeling. The carpet's wet. Windows broken out. The kitchen's dilapidated."
Turner remembered the house as it looked four years ago, when he visited Brown. "It was magical," he said. "But the magic has turned tragic."
Turner said he had considered buying the house and turning it into "something nice for the Equestrian Games. Or into a boys' ranch or maybe an assisted-living facility, something that would be an asset to the city," he said.
He said he changed his mind after seeing its condition. "I like to preserve history, but that's going to take a lot of money and time," Turner said. The interior would have to be gutted and much of the exterior wood replaced, he said.
"If it had been the home I remembered, it wouldn't have bothered me to pay a million or $1.2 million for it," he said. "But I changed my mind last Friday."
The 17-acre estate, the site of elegant parties while Brown was governor, has a 7,500-square-foot mansion, a pool, tennis courts, a three-bedroom guesthouse, a putting green and a horse barn. When Brown was governor, he and first lady Phyllis George lived there while the Governor's Mansion in Frankfort was being renovated.
The Feins bought the estate for $1.9 million from Brown in July 2006.
The couple put it back on the market in December 2006 for $2.45 million.
In May, Scorsone ordered the master commissioner's sale to pay the mortgage.
Mattie Fein contended that the ruling was incorrect and the house should not be sold because, she said Monday, there is not clear title to the property. The deed is in one name — the Feins' — and the mortgage is in another — that of Cave Hill LLC, a small company the Feins set up.
The couple appealed Scorsone's ruling to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
In a telephone call after the sale, Mattie Fein said she was "quite pleased as to what happened. They had nobody who could bid on the place because they knew they had a title problem."
Case said the appeal will not prevent his client, Logan, from getting clear title to the property.
"That is the reason for going through a master commissioner's sale," he said. "The whole purpose is to clear the title and move the process on. This process gives us control of the property."
Bruce Fein could not be reached for comment.