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Historic masterpiece 

“If walls could talk” are words often muttered during a visit to a historic home. Indeed, imagine the stories that could be told about decades, and even centuries, past if it were possible to know all the history, events and people who passed through those structures. 

One of Kentucky’s grandest and most elaborate historic homes, Ward Hall is the subject of a beautiful coffee table book by photographer Bob Willcutt and preservationist James D. Birchfield, both of Lexington. Ward Hall: Kentucky’s Greek Revival Masterpiece is chock full of detailed, full color photographs of the interior and exterior of the home, as well as a comprehensive account of each of the home’s owners. 

Located in Georgetown and completed around 1857, the mansion consists of 12,000 square feet divided into 18 rooms to include servants’ quarters, attic storage, a grand reception hall and a ballroom. A double elliptical staircase and 13 fireplaces complete with mantles of Italian marble are just a taste of the architectural elements lavished upon the home. Original paint colors are still intact on the first floor. 

The grandeur of the mansion comes as no surprise, considering its original inhabitants. Junius and Matilda Viley Ward, both Scott County natives, earned their fortune in the Mississippi cotton industry. After building a 45-room mansion there for the winter months, the Wards paid $50,000 in gold for their Kentucky summer home to be constructed, and furnished it with the best New York furnishings and tableware that their extensive wealth could buy. 

Junius Ward was also an avid horseman, filling his 500-plus acres with thoroughbreds. For a short time, he was part owner of Lexington, who was deemed the greatest horse of his century. 

However, the Wards could not maintain their affluent lifestyle due to a number of poor decisions during a war economy. Declaring bankruptcy in 1867, Ward sold the mansion to cover overdue loans. The property changed hands more than 10 times by the early 20th century, often with changes to the name of the estate. Finally, a Tennessee family provided some longevity, owning the home from 1945 to 1990. During this time, the home was opened for tours. 

After sitting vacant from 1990 until 2004, Ward Hall’s fate seemed sealed as it stood in a state of disrepair. The Ward Hall Preservation Foundation was formed to save the architectural masterpiece and restore the house to its original glory. Donations as well as proceeds from tours of the home continue to make headway on the project. 

Ward Hall: Kentucky’s Greek Revival Masterpiece, Acclaim Press, $49.95, can be purchased at 

Tours of Ward Hall are offered on specific dates or are available by appointment. Visit or call (502) 863-5356 for more. 

Prior to photographing Ward Hall, Bob Willcutt was awarded the Kentucky Historical Society’s Private Press Award and the Bluegrass Trust’s Clay Lancaster Heritage Education Award. Dr. James Birchfield has authored numerous historical works and received the Blue Grass Trust John Wesley Hunt Lifetime Award for Historic Preservation in 2014. 

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