It cost horseman Ken Ramsey a little more to buy Jessamine County's historic Chaumiere du Prairie estate than he first offered, but he got the job done Saturday.
Ramsey made the winning bid of $1,860,134 at the auction of the antebellum brick home and 169 acres in the northern part of the county, near the Thoroughbred operation that has produced dozens of stakes winners and earned Ramsey and his wife, Sarah, top honors as owners and breeders.
Ramsey said he made an unsuccessful offer of $10,000 an acre for the house and farm last year. His bid Saturday worked out to a little more than $11,000 an acre.
Ramsey was clearly pleased to get the property, showing off the cabinet where elite visitors in the early 1800s stored their powdered wigs, then going through the house with his son Kelly to look at the walnut woodwork and other features.
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"We care about the history of it," Ken Ramsey said. "I'm proud to own it."
One part of the Greek Revival mansion was built around 1840. One unique part of the house is an eight-sided parlor with a 16-foot ceiling.
The room was built in the early 1820s to prepare for a hoped-for visit by the French Gen. Marquis de Lafayette, who toured the country in 1825.
The hero of the Revolutionary War made it to Kentucky but couldn't get to Chaumiere du Prairie because the road was too muddy, said Ernestine Hamm, a local historian who was at the sale.
However, then-owner David Meade II hosted many other notables at the house — called Chaumiere des Prairies in some accounts — including President James Monroe and future presidents Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor.
Kentucky's famed U.S. Sen. Henry Clay visited often, and former Vice President Aaron Burr, who had been arrested on charges of treason, stayed over while on his way to Virginia to stand trial, where he was acquitted.
Ramsey said he loves history, so that was a strong selling point. Another was that the farm joins a 189-acre farm owned by Kelly Ramsey.
Ken Ramsey said it's possible he will put mares on his new land. There are no plans to develop the farm, he said.
"We didn't buy it to develop," Ramsey said.
Ramsey said he plans to preserve the house.
Some people at the sale said they were glad Ramsey bought the property, noting a concern that another buyer would subdivide the farm for houses or other development, or that the house might not be preserved.
"He's got a good reputation. I believe he'll do what's right," Hamm said.
Bobby Day Wilson, whose company conducted the auction, said that the estate had been in the same family for 131 years, and that the house was occupied until September.
The last owner in that family line, Lloyd McMillan, decided to sell because he is moving to South Carolina.
That created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy the house and fertile farmland, Wilson said at the auction.
"It's an amazing piece of land," Wilson said.
Wilson said more than 300 people came through during open houses. Seventeen people signed up to bid, but Ramsey made clear he came determined to buy.
Auctioneer Jackie Wayne Sexton had to cajole for bids at times, but Ramsey quickly raised his offer in $10,000 increments each time someone topped him. Now a new tradition begins, he said after the sale.
"Maybe it'll stay in the Ramsey family another 131 years," Ramsey said.