Tuesday, December 27, 2011

SUV vs. Sign = a mess

Last week an SUV skidded on Blankenbaker Lane next to our driveway, and the resulting crash was not good for our main entrance sign. Fortunately no one was seriously injured, but much of the stone base for the sign, constructed five years ago, is now halfway down the hill towards River Road. The sign itself is bent a little, and the "cust" fell off  the logo on one side. Our staff was able to force the sign back into position, so people can still find the entrance. The sign's installers and stone masons are offering estimates, insurance will cover it, but in the meantime the entrance to Locust Grove looks sad. We'll try to get it fixed as fast as possible. Visitors don't seem to be deterred.

Take care on Blankenbaker Lane, people! Winter is coming, respect the road!

Friday, November 18, 2011

New Americans

Today the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky met here at Locust Grove, for the purpose of swearing in 73 new citizens of the United States.

It's not a great picture, but it was a great day. People from 34 different countries came, documents in hand, with their families and supporters, to become Americans. They came from Cuba, Bosnia, Scotland, Belarus, Columbia, Nigeria.... it was inspiring. Some had come by free choice, others had come to America as refugees after horrific struggles.

The children's chorus from the Chance School sang the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, each new American swore to uphold the Constitution, speeches were made by former Congressman Romano Mazzoli and Locust Grove Director Carol Ely, and the event was over.

Each new American left not only with citizenship papers, but with tickets to return to Locust Grove for a visit on another occasion.

We were very honored to have shared in this day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Locust Grove, Media Superstar

We've been so busy here that we've ignored this blog. Last weekend was the best 18th Century Market Fair in the history of 18th Century Market Fairs - just shows what perfect weather will do! We had news crews here from WAVE and WLKY interviewing the re-enactors and filming the battles - see the video here.

Locust Grove will also be featured in the next bridal issue of Louisville Magazine - the photo shoot, on a rainy weekday, brought models and stylists and photographers to the site, with yards of white tulle and exotic footwear, a very fashion-forward day on the grounds! We can still smell the hairspray...

Today we have a photographer and reporter from the food section of the Courier-Journal here, talking with chef Mark Williams of Brown-Forman, who will be offering a Thanksgiving program for us on the 12th of November, featuring local foods.

It's a beautiful place to be, especially at this time of year. Come over, rest, breathe.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The War of 1812: the Movie

In all the commotion about the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War (and we've all learned a new word there!), an earlier American conflict has been unfairly overlooked - the War of 1812. It's the Bicentennial of that war, beginning next year and running through 1815. I'm sure that you are all busy making your plans now for your personal celebrations.

But, seriously, some of us here at Locust Grove are preparing for our own commemoration, focusing on the generation of Kentuckians who were literally children of the Revolution, many of whom fought to complete the war with England that their fathers had battled a generation earlier. George Croghan, the second son of William and Lucy Croghan, was the "hero of Fort Stephenson", winning a battle using tactics that seem to have been inspired by the military daring of his uncle, George Rogers Clark. Expect more programs and events in the coming year to explore and to try to illuminate this conflict, which is poorly understood by most Americans.

Here's a link to a very funny video dramatizing our ignorance, in the form of a trailer for a film that we'd love to see - The War of 1812: the Movie. But then we're history geeks. But then, since you're reading this, so are you!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Locust Grove is at least 216 years old, and remarkably strong for its age. William Croghan sited it well, built soundly, and his immediate heirs kept it intact.

The 1960s restoration was state-of-the-art for the time, and, though decisions were made that would not be made today, the House was strengthened and renewed. Since then, site owners Jefferson County and then Metro Parks have worked with  Historic Locust Grove, Inc. to maintain the integrity (in all senses of the word) of the structure.

In the past few years we've not only redone the interiors from the plaster to the wallpaper, we've replaced roof flashing, entire chimneys, reinforced the stairs, added drainage, and so much more.

But until now, we've never had a really comprehensive look at the building as a whole, how it works structurally, and how it will continue to stand and resist the forces of gravity and water. So last summer we formed a committee (of course) and began working with architect Charles Raith of Milner Associates and his engineering team for a complete engineering assessment of the building.

After the initial interior visual inspections and measurements and document gathering, a laser measurement specialist arrived and began detailed and extremely precise mapping of every exterior surface of the building, each brick, each crack in each brick, each deformation or deflection from the ideal. Over time, we will be able to measure tiny shifts and see if we have a problem developing BEFORE it causes disaster.

This week, preservation engineer Nicole Ferran went up in a hydraulic lift (thanks, Louisville Metro Parks Forestry Department!) to visually inspect the exterior bricks and the roof.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Your House Can Look Like Locust Grove

If it has always been your secret dream to live at Locust Grove, part of your wish can come true: Adelphi Wallpaper has reproduced the Arabesque paper used in our second floor Great Parlor. Purchase at http://www.adelphipaperhangings.com/locustgrove.html and live magnificently on the Kentucky frontier!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Appreciating Volunteers

Bob Pilkington & Fred Atkinson, in costume
Tomorrow, April 12, is once again our "Volunteer Appreciation" party, an annual rite of formally thanking our volunteers, all 100+ of them, for their service during the year. We count up the hours, issue certificates, offer recognition pins to those who pass certain milestones. In some years we award our highest honor, the Audrey Pilkington award, and we've also created some other awards for such accomplishments as surviving the "Most Unusual Visitor Experience", and the self-explanatory "Saves-the-Day" award. We eat, drink (open bar!) applaud, and go home.

Tobe Penny, Visitors Center volunteer
And then the next day, the volunteers show up again, and we carry on. But I hope that for that one evening, everybody does really recognize and understand just how much our volunteers ARE Locust Grove. We could not in any way do what we do without the participation of people who just want to be here to share their skills and their time.

Jeannie Vezeau, Gazette Editor & so much more
That's the magic of volunteers. They choose to be here, want to be here, give up other opportunities to be here. Some love the study of history, some love this neighborhood, some enjoy meeting people, some are big fans of George Rogers Clark, some love the opportunity to imagine for a few moment that it's 1811, not 2011.

The Hillbrechts: some whole families volunteer!
In our circles of community, we have our staff, Board, committees, our volunteers, our Friends members, and the people who come to participate in events and tours. It's not unusual for one individual to fit at once in all those categories (we even have staff/volunteers). We're always looking for more volunteers, and looking for ways to make it fun and worthwhile for those who choose to do so.

So, while it could be seen as just pro forma, Volunteer Appreciation  is anything but. We truly are grateful and lucky to have the people that we have, volunteering here at Locust Grove.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Here's an image of the Oushak rug, for those of you who were wondering. The Great Parlor room has come together in stages, so we don't yet have professional-quality images of the room with the wallpaper and the curtains AND the carpet. But really, you have to see it to appreciate it. Colors that seem as though they would clash, don't. It works.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Back to Reality

Eight months is long enough between blog posts! We're back.

The Locust Grove blog was originally set up to keep people up-to-date with our re-restoration of the historic 1790s House. Well, we're done! Even the long-awaited Oushak rug has arrived from Turkey for the Great Parlor.

Now we're moving on with a plan for the grounds and outbuildings, with the intention of learning more about this land as a farm, and more about the natural history of the site. Last weekend was our first "Slave Life at Locust Grove" weekend, with tours and performances based around the lives of the enslaved African-Americans who lived here and did the work of the farm. We plan to extend this programming through the year.

With Louisville Metro Parks, owners of the site, we've begun creating a Master Plan for the next 25 years. What can we do with all 55 acres? What do audiences - tourists and local - want from this site, now and later? What will keep us relevant to a changing community?

We've just started getting organized for this process. Phase 1 is a physical survey of the 55 acres, and a mapping of the boundaries of the original 694 acres of Locust Grove (fun with map overlays!). Phase 2 is archeological research. Both phases will be started in 2011. At a later point, there will be community input in planning, and we hope that you'll add your thoughts to the mix.