Department of Parks
My Old Kentucky Home Renovation To Be Showcased Nov. 1
BARDSTOWN, Ky. – The home that symbolizes Kentucky is having an open house on Nov. 1 to show off a nearly $1 million renovation project.
Federal Hill, the Georgian-style mansion that legend says inspired Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home,” has undergone extensive interior renovations that will be celebrated in a ceremony next month.
The goal of the work, the first major renovation since 1977, was to make the home look as it did in the 1850s when Foster wrote his famous song. The work includes new interior finishes, reproduction wallpapers, carpets, drapery treatments and bed hangings.
Paints and colors were analyzed to accurately determine what the home looked like. For example, small core samples of wood were taken and analyzed under a microscope to help recreate the graining technique that was used. Several different kinds of wood were used in the home and the graining made it look all look like the same kind of wood.
“This is an accurate renovation that makes the home appear as it was in the 1850s,” said Alice Heaton, the park manager at My Old Kentucky Home State Park in Bardstown. Federal Hill is featured on the back of the Kentucky quarter that was issued by the U.S. Mint in 2001.
Visitors to the home will notice bright colors and patterns, which were typical of the period, according to Ron Langdon, the home’s curator who worked on the renovation. In 1850, only candles and lamps were used for lighting, so bright, reflective colors and patterns would have helped brighten the rooms.
Work on Federal Hill was started by John Rowan in 1795 and was completed in 1818. The state took control of the home in 1922. It has undergone renovations in 1926, 1950 and 1977.
Rowan served in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, was a member of the Kentucky General Assembly, the state Court of Appeals and was secretary of state. Federal Hill hosted Aaron Burr, Henry Clay and other important political and social figures. Foster, a family relative, wrote his song in 1852.
The renovation work, made possible by an anonymous donor, began in 2004 and was carried out by a group of expert artisans. They include Matthew J. Mosca, a consultant on historic paint finishes from Baltimore; Jim Yates, a consultant on wallpaper from Johnson City, Tenn., who has installed wallpaper at the White House; Kevin and Marva Hereford, consultants on the draperies and bed hangings from Milton, Ky.; Todd Deetsch, a consultant on grain finishes in Middletown, Ky.; and Langdon, the home’s curator.
My Old Kentucky Home will also be holding its annual candlelight tours Nov. 24-25, Dec. 1-2 and Dec. 8-9 this year. This event features tours led by guides dressed in Christmas period correct clothing at Federal Hill mansion. The house is decorated for the holidays as it would have been in the 1800s’. Guests are served refreshments after the tour. For information, contact the park at 502-348-3502.
The 285-acre park also has an 18-hole golf course, campground, picnic area and a summertime theatrical production – “The Stephen Foster Story.”