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Frankfort, Kentucky History

  • A Rare Kentucky Book: Kentucky; A Poem by Isaac W. Skinner

    By James D. Birchfield

    KY a poem pic 1

    On the shelves of the Brown family library at Liberty Hall there is a very rare Kentucky book – Kentucky; A Poem, by Isaac W. Skinner.[1]  It truly is a rare book, because there are only four known copies: the Liberty Hall copy, two copies in the Special Collections Research Center at the University of Kentucky, and a fourth copy owned by the Millbrook Public Library in Millbrook, Alabama.

  • Collections Spotlight: A Rare Find - A Kentucky Penitentiary Table

    By Sharon Cox

    Figure 1Figure 1: Penitentiary table, mid-19th century, Liberty Hall Historic Site Collections, photograph by Mack Cox

    The Liberty Hall Historic Site (LHHS) Collections Committee believes that this table was made by inmates of the first Kentucky Penitentiary in Frankfort. (Fig. 1).  While antebellum Kentucky Penitentiary chairs are uncommon (Fig. 2-left), post-Civil War examples (Fig. 2-right) are plentiful.  Yet, this table is the only non-chair form known to the collections committee that might have been a standard product of the prison’s furniture industry, making it an important example of Kentucky furniture. 

  • Corner in Celebrities: Frankfort Suffragists

    By Kate Hesseldenz, Curator

    Laura Clay 1916Laura Clay and group marching for the Madison, Fayette, and Franklin Kentucky Equal Rights Association, at Democratic National Convention in St. Louis Date, ca. 1916, University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center

    Founded in 1888, the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (K.E.R.A.), was the first women’s rights organization in the South. Names such as Laura Clay and Madeline McDowell Breckinridge come to mind as leaders of Kentucky’s suffrage movement. Although not as well known, there were many other women who were involved. 

  • Frankfort Friends: Paul Sawyier and the Browns

    By Kate Hesseldenz, Curator

    Another View of Frankfort photo by Gene BurchAnother View of Frankfort, Paul Sawyier, watercolor on paper, ca. 1895, Liberty Hall Historic Site Collections

    Liberty Hall Historic Site owns eight Paul Sawyier paintings.  Six of these were likely collected by Brown family members.  Though not born in Frankfort, Paul Sawyier (1865-1917) and his family moved to the capital city in 1870.  While living in Frankfort, Sawyier created watercolor landscape paintings of his central Kentucky surroundings. He also painted portraits and worked in oils. Sawyier was influenced by American Impressionism and studied with Impressionist artist, William Merritt Chase, in New York City in 1889.  

  • Gray Lady Stories: Part 1

    By Julia Gabbard, Tour Guide

    thumbnail liberty hall oween ghost stories

    If asked what they know about Liberty Hall, most people will say “The Gray Lady.”  Humans are very interested in what lies beyond the grave, so it is no surprise that stories of the Gray Lady continue even now.  This is part one of a four-part series on Liberty Hall’s Gray Lady. However, to enjoy the stories of the Gray Lady, one needs to understand a bit about the Brown family while they lived, so I’ll start with a brief history.

  • Gray Lady Stories: Part 2

    By Julia Gabbard, Tour Guide

    thumbnail liberty hall oween ghost stories

    Gray Lady sightings continued into the 20th century. Some believe that participating in such occult activities, as the last resident of Liberty Hall, Mary Mason Scott (Mame), was known to do, can open doors to the spiritual realms, and create portals through which the dead may come and go.  Perhaps this could explain the ongoing, occasional encounters that so many claim to have had over the years.

  • Gray Lady Stories: Part 3

    By Julia Gabbard, Tour Guide

    thumbnail liberty hall oween ghost stories

    Throughout her nearly twenty-year tenure there, the Frances Coleman who took the photo, reported several mysterious incidents, which she herself witnessed or were experienced by visitors to the site. There were the common tropes of haunting, such as rocking chairs rocking on their own, doors opening or closing without assistance, and the sounds of other people in the house when there was no one else there.