The Harrodsburg Historical Society celebrates the 25th year of its Holiday Homes Tour with eight special properties, including two churches, a log house and the magnificent mansion where Kentucky’s Civil War governor grew up.
Kentucky’s oldest town, founded in 1774, has always been proud of its history. And no wonder: it has an impressive collection of homes and other old buildings representing a variety of architectural styles.
This year’s tour is 1 to 7 p.m. Dec. 3. Tickets are $15 for adults ($11 for seniors and groups of 20 or more). Tickets can be bought at any stop or at the society’s office, 220 South Chiles Street at historic Morgan Row, where a tea room serving lunch and dinner will be set up from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more informationc go to Harrodsburghistorical.org, (859) 734-5985 or (859) 749-2485.
The most impressive home on the tour is Clay Hill, 433 Beaumont Avenue, an 1812 Federal-style mansion restored by owner James Kaywell, a retired lawyer.
Clay Hill was the boyhood home of Beriah Magoffin, Kentucky’s 21st governor, from 1859 until 1862. Although a Southern sympathizer, he enforced the General Assembly’s decision to keep Kentucky neutral during the Civil War. The house’s other claim to fame is its woodwork, attributed to Harrodsburg cabinetmaker Matthew P. Lowery and considered some of the finest in Kentucky.
At the other end of the spectrum is a charming log house at 1662 Talmadge Mayo Road, which was built about 1803 by the Voorhies family, early Dutch settlers, and is now occupied by Jan Rafert, retired curator of primates at the Milwaukee Zoo.
Lewis and Myra Reed Prewitt are completing a major restoration of the Thompson-Daviess House at 122 East Poplar Street. The house has been in her family since 1918, and it was formerly occupied by her parents and grandparents.
“We basically rebuilt it,” Lewis Prewitt said of the circa 1881 Victorian-style house that also was once home to two Harrodsburg authors, Maria Thompson Daviess and Elizabeth Pendleton Hardin.
While adding modern conveniences, the couple have carefully kept the house’s historical character intact. Their next project is restoring the outhouse and the coal shed, which will be used to store tools for the backyard rose garden. “My grandmother planted a lot of the things out there,” Myra Prewitt said.
The circa 1822 William McBride House, 125 West Poplar Street, was restored by owners Lois Mateus and Tim Peters, who now rent it as four apartments. William and Jane McBride were both from pioneer families who came to what was then Fort Harrod. His father, Capt. William McBride, was killed at the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782.
The house has woodwork by renowned Mercer County craftsman Matthew Lowery, including large windows where residents could have watched troops marching past after the Battle of Perryville in October 1862.
Across West Poplar Street is St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church, which was completed a year before the battle. The Gothic-style church, which has Italian stained-glass windows and local walnut woodwork, was said to have been protected from damage by Confederate Gen. Leonidas Polk. He also was an Episcopal bishop and conducted a prayer service there.
The Dedman House, 528 Beaumont Avenue, was built in 1883 by C.M. Dedman, a druggist and distiller. It is an exuberant collection of Victorian architecture styles. The house was divided into apartments after World War II, but it has been the home of Harriet Ruby for 47 years.
Ruby has furnished the house with period furniture and collectibles. The living room has furniture that belonged to her great-grandfather, who had four daughters.
“He bought uncomfortable furniture because he didn’t want any of their young men to stay very long,” she said. It apparently worked: Only one daughter married.
Also on the tour is the circa 1914 Kirkwood Baptist Church and cemetery, 1955 Kirkwood Road in Salvisa. But it isn’t the newest building on the tour. That would be the home of George and Carole Noe, 1685 Perryville Road. The house is modern, but it is filled with a fine collection of early Kentucky furniture and paintings.
Among the highlights: an 1820s portrait of Henry Clay by Aaron Corwine is one of the most flattering to the statesman, and a 1760s desk owned by early settler John Gano, a Baptist minister who was George Washington’s chaplain during the Revolutionary War.
Noe, a retired physician, is an avid collector of early Kentucky pieces, and collecting runs in his family. His uncle, Bob Noe, recently donated most of his collection to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, where it is the foundation of the new Kentucky Gallery.
“I had picked up a few things over the years, getting some advice from Uncle Bob,” Noe said. “But we’ve ended up buying more than we had room for. A lot more.”