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Crestwood Civic Club Holiday Home Tour

Three private, historic homes
to be featured on tour

Wrights to show off ‘Ash Lea’ home

CRESTWOOD, Ky. (November 2018) – Each year the Crestwood Civic Club plays host to a holiday home tour featuring three distinctive homes in Oldham County. This year’s homes bring with them history and beautiful architecture, having once belonged to wealthy, enterprising individuals.
Virginia Wright said she “fell in love with” her current home the moment she saw it. “It’s an old Victorian with a wrap-around porch. It’s very southern.”

Photo provided

James and Virgina Wright live in this historic Victorian home.

She and her husband, James, who is from the area, purchased the home in 2013. It is known as Ash Lea (Ley) or the George Miller House and located on Central Avenue in historic Pewee Valley. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, Wright said the best estimate as to its construction is 1820. George Miller, and local tinsmith, and his wife, Kate, owned the residence between 1876-1914.
“The first owner was a woman, Nettie Smith,” said Wright. “She was a relative of Cassius Clay. He arranged for her to own it. It started as a farmhouse.”
Wright, who is from northern Kentucky, said at the time there were four houses in a square in Pewee Valley. “Homes continued to be built around them and became a community.”
The three-story weatherboard home contains more than 4,000 square feet and underwent two renovations before the Wrights purchased it. A bedroom was added upstairs and a kitchen and keeping room onto the back of the first floor.
The original kitchen had been free-standing and constructed of brick. Along with the kitchen, three outbuildings set in a row behind the home. The 2.8 acres that the Wrights own also contain a cottage that was previously used as a summer kitchen.
Immediately after purchasing the house, the couple took on a major engineering project to stabilize the foundation and keep the cellar from further deterioration. They used the same engineering company that worked on the Water Tower in Louisville to shore up the house. Steel scaffolding was erected in the cellar and it is now “very solid,” she said.
The home got its name because “houses were named according to the dominant tree in the yard,” said Wright. In this case, most of the trees were ash trees. “It is the English name for ‘meadow.’ ”
For the holidays, Wright said she likes to decorate the formal living room in gold tones and the kitchen and keeping room in red tones.
Ash Lea is one of three unique homes on this year’s Crestwood Civic Club Annual Home Tour & Luncheon. The tour is a self guided tour of the homes held from 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17.
Two lunch times are offered: 11 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. at the Civic Club clubhouse, 7215 Kavanaugh Rd. in Crestwood. Tickets are $25 per person and can be picked up or purchased, along with a brochure and tour map, at the clubhouse the day of the tour.
During the 1860s, the nearby city of Crestwood got a boost when the railroad came through the area. This convenience enabled many to work in Louisville, but reside in the quiet confines of a smaller city with beautiful homes.
German-born George A. Becker (1855-1936) was one of the elite who owned Louisville Feed & Seed and made the commute to Louisville from Crestwood often. He and his wife, Catherine Caroline Christian Becker (1853-1942), moved to the area known as Beard’s Station and lived in a home built between 1875-1885.
An enterprising man, Becker and his wife wanted to expand their real estate in order to raise livestock. They had originally contracted with their neighbor, Charles W. Gheens, to purchase the residence next door, known as the Rush-Gheens home.
Charles W. Gheens (1836-1927) owned a wholesale grocery business called Gheens & Bros., in addition to owning a cement company in Cementville, Ind. He held extensive real estate holdings and eventually moved to New Orleans, where he owned plantations.
The Beckers’ home, known as the Gheens-Becker home, was nominated and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. George and Catherine’s son, Fred, was instrumental in the construction of many of the features of the Italianate two-story residence.
In 1998, current owners Chip and Stacie Huber, purchased the property and made renovations to the 4,100-square-foot home.
“We had to do a total rehab,” said Stacie. “It took nine months.”
At the time of purchase, “You could see right through the house.” The floors and moldings were able to be salvaged.
The home sets on about four acres, the same amount the Hubers owned before moving there. The couple was motivated to buy the residence because of its proximity to St. Aloysius school, which their children attended.
The third featured home is the Waldeck Mansion in Crestwood. It was built in 1888 by German immigrant Karl Jungbluth (1848 -1928), who came to America as an interpreter.
He became president of the McAndrews & Forbes Tobacco Co., where he developed the licorice flavoring in chewing tobacco that is still used today. During the 20 years he owned Waldeck, Jungbluth was a gentleman farmer, commuting to Louisville for his primary occupation, just as George Becker had done. Jungbluth established a successful thoroughbred operation, Waldeck Stud. He bred and trained the 1903 American Derby winner, The Picket.
He sold Waldeck to Clara and Diederich Meschendorf in 1908 for $3,000. Diederich Meschendorf had been manager and owner of Old Times Distillery in Louisville.
Waldeck had several other owners up until 1984 when Clyde Tidwell and David Gleason purchased the property and expanded the farm from approximately 1,000 acres to more than 1,400. The business partners raised championship registered Angus until 1998, when Waldeck was purchased by the Gleason family and converted to a grain production farm.
The 8,500-square-foot classical revival mansion provides a picturesque setting for wedding receptions and other formal events, for which it can be rented.

• To purchase tickets for the Crestwood Civic Club Holiday Home Tour, contact Laurie at (502) 996-7050.

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