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Liberty Hall Portable desk cropped

Uncovering the story of Harry Mordecai, Bricklayer and Plasterer at Liberty Hall Historic Site

By Sharon Cox

Mordecai blog Sharon Cox image 1Orlando Brown House exterior, photograph by Hilly Dobner, 2019.

My first introduction to Mordecai’s work at the Orlando Brown House was a report of Jacqueline Ridley’s tour of Liberty Hall. Jacqueline is a descendant of Mordecai. Harry Mordecai had been known as a free African American plasterer who was thought to have plastered the Old State Capitol and the Orlando Brown House. Curator Kate Hesseldenz was able to provide Jacqueline with a copy of Orlando Brown’s record of paying Mordecai for some of the plasterwork at Orlando’s house and Orlando’s letter to his father about the construction progress.

Slavery at Liberty Hall: The Stepney Family, Part 2

By Sara Elliott, Director

Stepney Family blog

This is the second in a multi-part blog about the enslaved Stepney family that lived and worked at Liberty Hall. These biographies are based on the continuing research of the LHHS staff. Brown family letters and documents gave us hints about the Stepneys. Public resources like wills, city directories, census, and tax records filled in some of the details.

Slavery at Liberty Hall: The Stepney Family, Part 1

By Sara Elliott, Director

Stepney Family blog

The first enslaved Black people came to Kentucky with the early European explorers in the mid-1700s. Protected by the 1792 state constitution, slavery continued to grow until by 1860 24% of the population was enslaved.[i] Although most Kentuckians did not own slaves there were over 225,000 enslaved African Americans in 1860, the largest number in the state’s history.[ii]

Hail Glorious Day! Early American Fourth of July Poems

By Kate Hesseldenz, Curator

Fourth of July poetry image 1Title page from Margaretta Mason Brown's commonplace book, 1785-1807 and portrait of Margaretta Mason Brown, watercolor on ivory, ca. 1790s, Liberty Hall Historic Site Collections

One of my favorite items in the collection is a commonplace book owned by Margaretta Mason Brown (1772-1838).  The book contains 52 poems.  Margaretta wrote many of the poems in the book, but she also copied some of them from magazines and newspapers.  They are arranged chronologically, and she titled the book “Fugitive Pieces, or, Juvenile Essays.” Margaretta began writing and copying poems into the book in 1785, when she was just 13 years old and lived in New York City. The last poem in the book is dated 1807. 

Oh What Responsibility Rests Upon Me! Margaretta Brown and the Frankfort Sabbath School for Girls

By Vicky Middleswarth, Educator

Sun dappled bench opt 1

In a shady corner of the Liberty Hall garden, there’s a stone bench with an inscription on the seat. Its age makes it hard to read, but the words represent an important aspect of the life of Margaretta Brown.

Robert Burns Wilson: Frankfort's Resident Artist

By Beth Caffery Carter

Robert Burns Wilson Blog
Robert Burns Wilson from The Magazine of Poetry A Quarterly Review, vol. 2, no. 4 (1890) and Blossoming Trees by Robert Burns Wilson, 1880-1890, Liberty Hall Historic Collections.

If you’ve visited Liberty Hall and the Orlando Brown House, you may recall the paintings that hang on their walls of these two houses. The Kentucky artists exhibited at Liberty Hall Historic Site include Oliver Frazer, Matthew Harris Jouett, and Paul Sawyier. However, one Kentucky artist represented in the collection stands out with because of his friendship with the Brown Family: Robert Burns Wilson.

Collections Spotlight: A Re-Discovered Kentucky Treasure at Liberty Hall

By Mack Cox

Fig. 1Figure 1. This fancy chair (one of six) and fancy settee date from about 1820 to 1830 and were early furnishings of Liberty Hall. They are attributed to the same anonymous chair making shop, which was likely located in Frankfort or Lexington.

A gilded ball over a spike and ball foot caught my eye. It was visible below a protective sheet in Liberty Hall’s attic. As I raised the sheet, a magnificent Kentucky fancy chair appeared (Figure 1). It was painted vermillion red with chromium yellow, black, and gold leaf accents. The paint was original and pristine, and the original rush seat intact. It was as if the chair had been stored, untouched for centuries. Under adjoining sheets were five more matching chairs.  Although exhibiting heat damage (bubbled & faded paint with craquelure), perhaps from a mid-20th century fire at Liberty Hall, the additional chairs were in unusually good condition.

A Splendid Adventure: Mary Yoder Brown Scott’s 1908 Trip to Italy

By Sara Elliott, Director

1908 Trip Blog Lillian MYBS

May 6th is National Tourist Appreciation Day. Liberty Hall Historic Site (LHHS) is a favorite stop for folks who visit Frankfort and we are grateful for every one of them. In these days of non-travel, I thought I would share a story of Brown family members being tourists. Although travel is quite a bit different now than in the early 20th century, the experiences of tourists are universal.

Collections Spotlight: China Painting

By Kate Hesseldenz, Curator

China Painting Blog illustration one

Plates. Liberty Hall Historic Site has a lot of them. I know this because I’ve been doing an inventory of the museum’s collection. Some of the more interesting ones (if plates can be interesting!) are a series of nineteen hand-painted plates dating to the 1880s. The designs are floral scenes and they are all painted on Haviland and Co. Limoges porcelain from France.  Some are signed by Brown family women.