Sunday, June 27, 2010

Locust Grove Historic Home

Louisville played a large role in the settlement of the west after the Revolutionary War. The city was founded in 1789 by Gen. George Rogers Clark, who went on to defeat the British in several battles. If not for Gen. Clark, we might be living in Canada right now! When his leg was amputated in 1809, he moved in with his sister, Lucy Clark Croghan, at Locust Grove, until his death in 1818.
The Croghans were quite wealthy, and their home reflected this status. By the mid-1900's, it had been sold several times, and was being used as a barn for livestock. Jefferson County and the Commonwealth of Kentucky purchased it at auction in 1961, and the restoration process began. A friend who is a historical re-enactor plays the part of Lucy Clark Croghan in the house, and does a wonderful explanation about the family and the times in the early 1800's.
Locust Grove has now been remodeled and redecorated to be more authentic to the era. Rugs were woven to patterns popular at the time. This is Gen. Clark's room. Note the wheels on his chair.
They found some of the original wallpaper, and sent samples out to be reproduced. The colors and patterns wouldn't be popular today, but only the most wealthy used wallpaper at the time since it was all hand made, one piece at a time. Apparently there is an antique wallpaper museum in France, and much research went into the process.
This wallpaper looks a bit odd to our eyes, but the white colors showed well in candlelight, while the darker shades show up in natural sunlight.
Locust Grove also hosted three U.S. Presidents, Monroe, Jackson and Taylor, and was a stopping point for famed explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark upon their return from their expedition to the Pacific. William Clark was the youngest brother of George and Lucy Clark.
The dining room is graced with period quality china, and a "phunka" (I think that's how you spell it) hanging from the ceiling. One of the young slaves would be assigned the job of pulling the rope to fan the phunka hangings back and forth, both creating a breeze for the diners, and chasing flies away when the windows were open.
The kitchen is in one of the outbuildings, of course. The foundation owns 55 acres of the original 700 in this location, although the Croghans owned thousands more throughout the west. This kitchen in famous in our family. When our daughter was only two years old, we visited Locust Grove, and she instantly noticed that the kitchen did not have a microwave! Dick once met an African American woman who re-enacts the life of the slaves at Locust Grove. She researched her family, and discovered that one of her ancestors actually was a slave there for 64 years! Major Croghan was the surveying partner of Gen. Clark, and for a while all the deeds and land records were kept in his office. Locust Grove has added a wonderful visitors center with a video and museum about the area in the early 1800's. After the years I have volunteered at the Falls of the Ohio, and its connection with George Rogers Clark, I really enjoyed seeing all this. We even noticed that the limestone in the out buildings had fossils in them!

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