Georgetown is home to the grandest Greek Revival home in Kentucky! With more than 12,000 square feet of living space, and four 27 foot tall fluted Corinthian columns supporting the massive portico, Ward Hall is a sight to see!
Junius and Matilda Ward
Ward Hall was built in the 1850s by Junius Richard Ward and his wife Matilda Viley Ward. Junius was believed to be the richest man in the south, building his wealth as a cotton farmer in Mississippi, where he lived most of the year. Ward Hall was built as Ward’s summer home costing $50,000 in gold. Their Kentucky home became a social center, where they held extravagant parties, hosted by their niece and socialite Ms. Sallie Ward. Ms. Ward was known as the “Belle of Louisville” as she was rich, spoiled, extravagant, and the center of attention everywhere she went.
Developing the Thoroughbred Industry
Junius was as well known as his niece. He was not only known for his fine home and the parties he held, but also for the significant role he played in the development of the thoroughbred industry in Kentucky. Junius and his brother-in-law, Captain Willa Viley, were owners of the most impressive racehorse, Lexington, who went on to sire many notable racehorses such as Kentucky, Asteroid, and Norfolk. (For more information click here and scroll down to “Expanded History.”)
After the Wards
The home sits upon a rolling hill on the edge of downtown Georgetown. As you drive up the winding driveway, just as carriages would have done years ago, the home comes into view and takes your breath away with its splendor. You enter the home from the back entrance, which leads you into the massive 62′ wide and 65′ long main hall. The interior of the home is just as impressive as the exterior! Its elliptical staircase that continues all the way to the third floor, its oversized walnut pocket doors that separate the parlor rooms, and its presses (or closets) that are found throughout, make you wish you could have seen it in its hey-day.
Unfortunately, Junius and Matilda lost their home to bankruptcy in 1867, having to sell the home, the land, and all the furniture at auction. The home passed through the hands of at least eight different families over the next 137 years, leaving the home in disrepair, which happens too many times with these grand homes.
Saving a Grand Home
The Ward Hall Preservation Foundation acquired the home in 2004 and opened the home for tours. The foundation has worked endlessly to bring the home back to its splendor, but it is far from finished. The home is still in need of major work. With peeling paint and water-damaged ceilings and walls, this is one tour that will make you wish you could just wave a magic wand like a Fairy Godmother and bring it back to life. So, if you decide to make a trip and tour the grandest Greek Revival home in Kentucky, know that you will not see it in its best gown dressed for a party. Instead, you will see it in its daily work clothes that need patching and repair. The home is still a sight to see and worthy of a trip, especially since your dollars go toward the renovations!
We have visited twice and both times we had fantastic volunteer tour guides that brought the home to life through their stories of the people and knowledge of the home. The Preservation Foundation has very specific tour days and times, so make sure to check the website before making a trip! I do hope you’ll visit, and maybe even make a donation. Every penny helps this diamond in the rough!
UPDATE: Promoting Historic Preservation
Want to help raise funds for this historic home? Check out our “Promoting Historic Preservation” blog post!
Until next time, Happy Travels!