Georgetown, Kentucky, is a community of beautiful Victorian mansions and a charming business district.
This wealth came from an agricultural economy. Planters cultivated tobacco and hemp and raised blooded livestock, including Thoroughbred racehorses, cattle, and sheep. During the Civil War, Kentucky stayed in the Union. The town continued to prosper following the war as it became a railroad hub.
Ward Hall, just outside the city, is open for tour and looms before me as I drive up the long driveway. The main house covers 12,000 square feet and features high Corinthian fluted columns.
I enter the back of the house, where Ron Byant greets me. Byant is a volunteer and the Chairman of the Board overseeing Ward Hall. He is very knowledgeable about the place and its history.
He tells me the mansion was built for planter Junius Richard Ward and his wife Matilda (Viley) Ward in 1857 on their 500-acre plantation as a summer home. Ward paid $50,000 in gold for the construction.
Many of Ward's family members had plantation houses in the deep South and summer residences and plantations in Scott County, Kentucky.
I walk along the wide hallway before entering the lavishly decorated rooms on both sides. Each portrait and object has its own story; time stands still in the lavish surroundings.
After the Civil War, Junius Ward declared bankruptcy. He sold Ward Hall in 1869. Bryant also proudly proclaims Ward Hall is the grandest Greek Revival residence in Kentucky and one of the nation's finest examples of a mid-nineteenth-century classical building.
I climb the oval winding stairs that extend three stories to the second floor to view the ballroom and bedrooms.
As I peer into each room, he tells me the complex is a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. Ward Hall now serves as the headquarters of The Ward Hall Preservation Foundation, Inc. The foundation raised one million dollars to purchase the 40 acre estate to preserve it for future generations.
Ward Hall is also a Kentucky Landmark.
As the tour ends, I wander outside to take photos of the glorious mansion. It was built on cotton and on the backs of enslaved people. A few civic-minded people saved this historic landmark to show 21st-century visitors the past, the history, and another way of life.