Kentucky Bluegrass: From Lexington to Louisville


April 6-10, 2022

“A richer and more beautiful country than this I believe has never been seen in America” is how the land surveyor and Revolutionary War officer George Rogers Clark described the Bluegrass region in 1775. By 1820, Lexington had quickly become one of the largest and wealthiest towns west of the Allegheny Mountains. The rapid growth of the city’s population amplified its cultural scene and Lexington soon gained the nickname “the Athens of the West.” The area is celebrated for its beauty, exquisite pastureland, rich soil, and world-class racehorses. Symposium participants enjoy a comprehensive introduction to Kentucky history through the superb and varied landscapes, cultural sites, and architectural achievements, as well as an opportunity to sample the state’s iconic export: bourbon. 


SYMPOSIUM SCHEDULE  (subject to amendment)

Thursday, April 7

Blue Grass Trust, Thomas Hunt-Morgan House

6:00 pm
  • Far Away: Recalling the Climate of Taste in Old Kentucky
    Estill Curtis Pennington, Curator, Patty Marsh Biddle Archive
7:00 pm
  • Opening Reception
    Sponsored by:

Friday, April 8

Blue Grass Trust, Thomas Hunt-Morgan House

9:00 am
  • Welcome
  • Design at a Crossroads in the Antebellum West
    Patrick Lee Lucas, Associate Professor, School of Interiors, College of Design, University of Kentucky
  • Henry Clay: Architecture & the Decorative Arts
    James Birchfield, Independent Scholar, Curator of Rare Books Emeritus, University of Kentucky
  • Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s Villa for John and Eliza Pope of Lexington
    Patrick Snadon, Independent Historian of Architecture and Design
11:00 am
  • At Hopemont, we explore the handsome home of John Wesley Hunt, known as the first millionaire west of the Alleghenies, who earned his fortune in the mercantile business. Adjacent to Gratz Park, the 1814 Federal-style house includes a collection of early Kentucky furniture, ceramics, and paintings and is complemented by a period garden.
12:00 pm
  • Lunch at the Carnegie Center
1:00 pm
  • Our afternoon tours explore three distinct and important historic houses in Lexington.

    Located on what was a 660-acre estate belonging to Henry Clay, US Senator and Speaker of the House, Ashland offers visitors a unique glimpse into elite 19th-century life in Lexington. The grand home was entirely recreated by his son James in 1852 following damage done by an earthquake. Architect Thomas Lewinski rebuilt the original structure while adding Greek Revival and Italianate details.

    The privately owned Elley Villa was built in 1851 for the cotton planter William R. Elley and his wife Louisa Johnson Elley, who grew up in the nearby Pope Villa. The house served as a summer retreat from their plantation in Mississippi. The design was based on Gothic-style plans in Andrew Jackson Downing’s The Architecture of Country Houses (1850).

    Pope Villa, designed by “America’s first architect” Benjamin Henry Latrobe, was built for U.S. Senator John Pope in 1810. Pope’s wife Eliza played an integral role in the design of the house, collaborating with Latrobe to create a home perfect for entertaining. The result was an avant garde design, consisting of a perfect square with a domed rotunda in the middle of the second floor.

6:00 pm 
  • Emerging Scholars Program Fundraiser (See below for details about registering for this event.) 

Saturday, April 9

Blue Grass Trust, Thomas Hunt-Morgan House

9:00 am
  • Welcome

  • Into the Bluegrass: Art and History of Kentucky’s Historic Icons
    Mel Hankla, EdD, American History Services

  • A Gallop into Early Kentucky Furniture (1790–1820)
    Mack Cox, Collector and Independent Scholar

10:30 am
  • Following our morning lectures, members may select from two off-site tour options: Frankfort and Environs or Paris and Georgetown.
    • Participants may choose to explore sites in and around the historic state capital Frankfort and Environs. The Old State Capitol served as home of the Kentucky General Assembly from 1830 to 1910 and was designed in the Greek Revival style by Gideon Shryock, an early Lexington architect. Built in 1796 by John Brown, Kentucky’s first Senator, the Neoclassical Liberty Hall is furnished with an important collection of early-19th-century decorative arts. The adjacent Orlando Brown House was built in 1835 for Senator Brown’s son and offers an appealing location for lunch. The afternoon includes a visit to a privately owned Greek Revival home with an exceptional collection. Before the tour concludes members are given a true taste of Kentucky at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, one of the oldest continuously operating distilleries in the United States. 
    • Alternatively, members may opt for an outing to Paris and Georgetown, where the first stop includes lunch at the colossal Duncan Tavern, a three-story building constructed of native limestone. Joseph Duncan, an officer in the Revolutionary War, built his home in 1788, four years before Kentucky received her statehood. We proceed to the privately-owned Buknore, one of Kentucky’s most beautiful antebellum edifices, which was lovingly restored in recent years. Kiser Station is one of the most important stone houses in Bourbon County. The property was established by the Kiser family in 1780, who lived in the home for nearly 170 years. The day concludes at Kentucky’s grandest Greek Revival house, Ward Hall. The imposing structure belonged to the Mississippi planter Junius Ward and was completed in 1857 using designs from Minard Lafever’s pattern books.

Sunday, April 10

Blue Grass Trust, Thomas Hunt-Morgan House

9:00 am
  • Welcome

  • The Kentucky Shakers: A Southerner’s Interpretation of the Rule
    Tommy Hines, Executive Director, South Union Shaker Village

  • John A.H. Sweeney Emerging Scholar Lecture
    Craftsman in the Bluegrass: Milton Paul and the African-American Cabinetmakers of Lexington’s Colonial Revival
    Erica Lome, Peggy N. Gerry Curatorial Associate, Concord Museum 

  • The Jonathan L. Fairbanks Lecture
    Furniture and Identity in Early Kentucky: The Case of the Cabriole-Legged Furniture of Mason County
    Daniel Ackermann, Chief Curator, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts

11:00 am
  • Symposium concludes


Pre-Symposium Optional Tour: Derby Days in Louisville

Wednesday, April 6

  • Following a morning departure from Lexington, our first stop is in Bloomfield at the impressive privately owned Walnut Grove Farm. The owners discovered Walnut Grove on a trip to Kentucky in the 1990s. The nearly 200-year-old Greek Revival house was carefully restored along with eight other historic buildings in the area. The owners’ passion for preservation and Kentucky history is noted throughout their enchanting estate and the superb collection they have assembled.
  • We proceed to the J.B. Speed Memorial Museum in Louisville, the oldest, largest, and foremost museum of art in Kentucky, with a focus on Western art, from antiquity to the present day. We are greeted by Scott Erbes, Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, and Erika Holmquist, Curator of European & American Painting & Sculpture, who will join us for lunch and provide in-depth tours of the collection.
  • At the nearby Filson Historical Society, we are treated to in-depth object studies along with tours led by the curatorial team. The Filson, founded in 1884, is a privately supported historical society dedicated to preserving the history of Kentucky and the Ohio Valley Region and houses an impressive collection of documents, paintings, objects, and books.
    We conclude our day with a closing reception at the Filson before making our way to our accommodations at the Embassy Suites.

Thursday, April 7

  • Our day commences with a driving tour of Louisville with architect Steve Wiser, including stops at two important historic homes. At Farmington, we explore the 18-acre historic site that was formerly the center of a hemp plantation owned by John and Lucy Speed. It is widely speculated that the 14-room Federal-style brick plantation house was based on a design by Thomas Jefferson. The site has seen generations of history including a visit from Abraham Lincoln in 1841.

  • Often referred to as the masterpiece of famed local architect Arthur Loomis of Clarke & Loomis, the Conrad-Caldwell House is one of the finest examples of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. The House has been restored to reflect the Edwardian era and houses an extensive collection testifying to the abundant lifestyle of the owners, two of Louisville’s most prominent businessmen and entrepreneurs, Theophile Conrad and William E. Caldwell.

  • We enjoy lunch and a tour at Locust Grove, a 55-acre 18th-century farm with a c. 1792 Georgian house. The original owners, William and Lucy Clark Croghan, welcomed a generation of American luminaries to their home, including Presidents James Monroe and Andrew Jackson, John James Audubon, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

  • Our visit to Louisville ends with a splendid private collection of Kentucky silver before heading back to Lexington for the opening lecture and reception. 

Post-Symposium Optional Tour: Pleasant Hill, Stanford, and Richmond

Sunday, April 10

11:00 am–7:00 pm
  • This day includes three exceptional collections of Kentucky decorative arts. The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is a tree-lined and beautifully restored community, developed from 1805 until 1910. Participants enjoy in-depth workshops led by Shaker craft experts Tommy Hines and Becky Soules.

  • Traveler’s Rest, the home of David and Roseann Downey, is a reconstruction of the house built in 1786 for Isaac Shelby, Kentucky’s first Governor. The Downeys restored the house and furnished it with a prominent collection of early Kentucky furniture, including a lap desk that belonged to Shelby, as well as contemporary studio glass and fine art by Henry Faulkner, a 20th-century Lexington artist.

  • The splendid collection of Mack and Sharon Cox is an important and substantial reservoir of early Kentucky material culture that includes silver, textiles, engravings, landscape paintings, long rifles, powder horns, pottery, and glass. The Cox’s main focus centers around portraiture and furniture, especially examples made in Lexington and Frankfort. Their rich and varied holdings represent the Western perspective of the American Federal period. 


Fundraiser for the Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program at the home of Jon Carloftis

Friday, April 8

6:00 pm

We are honored by the kind invitation to visit Jon Carloftis at Botherum. A 10th-generation Kentuckian, Jon is a highly regarded landscape and garden designer. Botherum, a Classically inspired limestone cottage, was built in 1851 for Madison C. Johnson by local architect and builder John McMurty. Of particular note are two large rooms with the original 20-foot-high octagonal plaster ceilings. Purchased in a desolate state, Jon’s work restoring Botherum has received several awards from notable organizations, including the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation and the State Historic Preservation Office. Jon decorated the home with a beautiful synthesis of antique and modern. As you might imagine, the gardens surrounding Botherum are equally splendid!

Please join us for a wonderful evening of connoisseurship and conviviality as we toast to our host’s hospitality and lend support to the Trust’s efforts to encourage the next generation of curators and academics through a growing series of grants, scholarships, and internships. In 2022, more than four dozen graduate students and young professionals will benefit from the Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program.




Hotel: Hilton Lexington Downtown, 369 West Vine Street

Special Room Rates: Single or double $189. The Trust has reserved a block of rooms for April 5–11. These rooms are available on a first-come first-served basis until March 14. Please make your reservations as soon as possible to ensure availability by calling 877.539.1648 and referencing the Decorative Arts Trust 2022 Symposium.

Travel: The hotel is a 15-minute cab ride from the Blue Grass Airport (LEX) in Lexington. Self-parking for overnight guests at the hotel is complimentary.



Registration fee: $850 per person, which includes all lectures, tours, meals, receptions, and transportation referenced in symposium brochure as well as a $25 tax-deductible donation to the Dewey Lee Curtis Scholarship Fund to underwrite symposium scholarships for graduate students or young professionals. Participants may elect to make an additional donation to the Curtis Fund through registration.

Student and Young Professional fee: $400 per person. This opportunity is limited to current graduate students and professionals working in the museum field who are less than 5 years from the completion of a college or graduate degree. The Trust also awards at least 2 scholarships per symposium. Applications can be submitted through the Trust’s website and are due by March 4.

Optional programs: The Pre-Symposium Optional Tour is $550 for a single registration, $950 for two participants sharing a room, and includes hotel accommodations for the night. The Post-Symposium Optional Tour is $250 per person. The Friday evening fundraiser for the Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program is $250 per person, fully tax deductible. These fees include transportation, admission, and food and beverage as referenced in the symposium brochure. Registration for optional programs is limited.

Membership: All participants must be members of the Decorative Arts Trust. Please select a level of membership if you are not currently a member. For a list of membership benefits, visit our Membership webpage. Members at the Sponsor level and above are invited to a special event during the Symposium. 

Cancellation fees: All cancellations received prior to January 31 are subject to a full refund less a $100 administrative fee per person. Participants canceling between January 31 and March 14 will receive a 50% refund. Refunds will not be made after March 15. 


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