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The House that Jack Built

Kentucky Vineyards, Tuscany Style

The House that Jack Built

The Woodford County countryside is a tourist attraction in itself, but travelers who take a turn down Craig’s Creek Road will find themselves traveling through time as well.

The Jack Jouett House—a neat little red brick Cape Cod with a scalloped front porch giving it the slightest touch of gingerbread—might trick you into thinking you’ve merely happened on a cute country cottage.

However, the Jack Jouett House has several important stories to tell, including one of the best tales of the American Revolution that you’ve probably never heard before.

Jouett was the son of a Virginia planter and a supporter of the Revolution. On the night of June 3, 1781, while traveling on business, the heat drove him out of his room at the Cuckoo Tavern in Louisa County, Virginia, to sleep outdoors. During the night, he heard the hoofbeats of British Col. Banastre Tarleton and his troops. Jouett knew immediately that Tarleton was headed for Charlottesville to attack Gov. Thomas Jefferson and the other revolutionaries headquartered there, men like Patrick Henry and the young Daniel Boone.

Jouett mounted his mare and rode 40 miles of backcountry to Monticello to warn Jefferson and give him and the Virginia legislators time to prepare for Tarleton’s arrival. The legislature and Gov. Jefferson later rewarded Jouett with a sword and a pair of pistols. He has since been called the “Paul Revere of the South.”

Considering that Jouett rode farther, unaided, and through wilderness rather than finished roads, why isn’t Revere called the “Jack Jouett of the North?”

“Jack did not have (Henry Wadsworth) Longfellow to come along and write a poem about him (like the poem Paul Revere’s Ride),” answers Jack Jouett House Executive Director Joel Meadors. “There’s so much of the man that’s lost in the legend. We don’t really know what sort of man he was. We don’t even know where he’s buried.”

After the Revolution, Jouett moved to Kentucky and became a successful planter and breeder of cattle and horses. From 1797 to 1809, he lived on the Craig’s Creek Road property.

A limestone cabin had already been built there little more than a decade after Kentucky’s first English settlement. Jouett made it into a detached kitchen to serve the home he built. The house presents a stark contrast to the old cabin. The first floor’s parlor, dining room, and bedroom have the simple yet elegant plaster walls and wood trim typical of the Federal style. The cramped upstairs rooms, much more rustic, provided sleeping space for the Jouett children: all 11 of them.

“Jack was not extremely wealthy. He was what we would call middle class. He was what they called ‘land rich but cash poor,’” Meadors says.

Sleeping in those cramped quarters, and running around the un-cramped 530 acres Jouett owned around it, was a boy who would become one of America’s great portraitists. Although Jouett’s son, Matthew, became renowned in the South during his lifetime and eventually became a nationally known artist, his father is said to have dismissed him as a “sign painter.”

Meadors recognizes that other historic houses in Kentucky might have been built on a grander scale, but the Jouett House has its own wealth, he says.

“We’ve got a great house, but we also have a great story.”


Finding the Jack Jouett House
255 Craig’s Creek Road
Versailles, KY 40383
(859) 873-7902
From Versailles, take High Street, which turns into McCowan’s Ferry Road, six miles out of town, then turn right on Craig’s Creek Road. The Jack Jouett House is the third house on the left.

From Bluegrass Parkway, take Exit 68 and follow KY 33 toward Versailles. Turn left on KY 2113 West (Falling Springs Boulevard), then left on KY 1964, which is McCowan’s Ferry Road. Drive four miles, then turn right on Craig’s Creek Road.

Hours & tours
Jouett House’s regular season runs from April 1-October 31. The house is open Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Tours are also available by appointment by calling (859) 873-7902. Guided tours last about an hour. School tours are free of charge to Kentucky public schools.

Special October event
Be sure and attend “If Walls Could Talk,” when ghosts, who are said to usually roam the Jack Jouett House, will join the guides and tourists.

There will be two ghost walks, October 17 and 18, from 2-4 p.m.

Actors will portray members of the Jouett family and tell their stories. Call the house for ticket information, (859) 873-7902.

Matthew Harris Jouett
Said to be the most famous painter that Kentucky has produced, the second son of Captain John “Jack” Jouett and Sarah “Sally” Robards, Matthew Harris was born on April 22, 1788, in Mercer County.

In 1816, after studying with noted portraitist Gilbert Stuart, Matthew Harris Jouett was recognized as the best portrait painter west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Matthew Harris Jouett’s best portraits are considered those of Henry Clay, Joseph H. Daviess, Dr. Horace Holley, Major Morrison, Governor Letcher, John J. Crittenden, Isaac Shelby, and the full-length portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette, now owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and on display in the Old State Capitol in Frankfort.

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Kentucky Vineyards, Tuscany Style

Seven years ago, Logan and Pam Leet were looking for a weekend getaway from their busy Lexington lives. Following newspaper directions to a “log home in country,” they rounded a bend in an Anderson County road and, says Pam, “Both our mouths flew open.”

These days, visitors describe the exact same experience when they follow signs to the Leets’ Lovers Leap Winery.

“This is Kentucky wine country,” she says, “and it’s every bit as beautiful as Napa and Sonoma.”

The couple purchased that log house on 90 acres outside Lawrenceburg from Ann and Jerry Holder, then-owners of Lovers Leap, a winery next door named for the Kentucky River bluff it sits atop. Former owners of Lexington’s Brand House Inn, Pam and Logan would drive by the rows of vineyards and think, “What if…?”

Last September, the vineyard came up for sale and with no winemaking experience, the Leets bought 60 acres including the winery and 30 acres of established vineyards. With help from a slew of experts, Logan has turned a love of wine into a career as a winemaker.

Already, Lovers Leap has nabbed two awards in the 2009 Taste of the Bluegrass.

Pam divides her time between her Two Can Marketing Group and the winery, vineyard, and a half-acre garden. Son Eric, wife Jennifer, and their three kids help. Daughter Beth, a wine sales representative in Nashville, comes aboard this fall.

Most of Lovers Leap’s 13 wines come from their own 10 varieties of grapes, supplemented with other Kentucky-produced fruit when possible. Visitors can taste, tour the winery and vineyard, and on weekends, groove to live music and enjoy a pig roast or barbecue.

September brings the winery’s Harvest Event ( And at “Cab, Canoes and Cards, Too” on the 26th, folks can paddle the Kentucky River to Frankfort on a poker run and return for a winery dinner.

“I’ve never worked so hard in my whole life nor had as much fun,” Pam laughs.

Denise Nelson understands. In 1997, she and her once-amateur winemaker husband Chris, a physician, fulfilled a dream when they purchased 10 acres in Jessamine County, planted 330 grape vines, and birthed Chrisman Mill Vineyards.

An architect and Tuscan-inspired chef, Denise has fashioned a winery with Tuscan décor, complete with a Tuscan-style patio overlooking five acres of vines. Hungry crowds flock to her Saturday brunches and her eight-course, reservations-only Tuscan suppers with locally grown and homemade everything.

Though visitors can taste and tour at the country property, Chrisman Mill’s Winery is in Lexington’s Hamburg Place.

According to Chris, the world’s greatest wines are made from grapes suited to the regions in which they grow. The Nelsons’ are mostly hybrids—Vidal, Chambourcin, and Norton—that thrive in Kentucky soils.

“We’re passionate about this,” Denise explains. “Besides, we like to support Kentucky grape growers. Consumers should understand that wineries can still bring grape juice in from out of state and call their product Kentucky wine. In addition to our own, we use 100 percent Kentucky-grown, Kentucky Proud fruit from 15 farmers.”


Currently, 29 Commonwealth wineries are in full production, another 10 are set to bottle their first run, and five to eight more are planting grapes. Read more online at Click on “Wineries and Vineyards” to download the Kentucky wine brochure featuring a guide with a map of all state wineries and vineyards, along with contact information, hours, and mileages between each.

Another Kentucky Proud winery nearby you might like to visit:
Chateau du Vieux Corbeau Vineyard and Winery
Taste six grape wines and five berry wines at Chateau du Vieux Corbeau in Danville, then spend the night at its elegant 200-plus-year-old National Register of Historic Places Old Crow Inn. Owner and history buff Andre Brousseau and his winemaker daughter Dominique opened the winery in 2002. Groups can book ahead for a guided peek into the cool wine cellar.

Go A-Wining
Chrisman Mill
Winery: 2300 Sir Barton Way
Suite 175, Lexington
(859) 264-WINE (9463)
Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.;
Sunday noon-6 p.m.
Vineyards: 2385 Chrisman Mill
Road, Nicholasville (859) 881-5007
Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Lovers Leap Vineyards and Winery
Vineyards, Winery and Gift Shop
1180 Lanes Mill Road
Lawrenceburg (502) 839-1299
Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Old Crow Inn & Chateau du Vieux Corbeau Vineyard and Winery
471 Stanford Road, Danville
(859) 236-1808
Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Check out more destinations on the Kentucky Agritourism Web site:

Katherine Tandy Brown is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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