A Deep Dive Into the Legacy Houses of St. Matthews

Writer / Steve Wiser
Photography Provided

Within and near the city of St. Matthews are some of the most significant and historic houses of Jefferson County. Many built over 100 years ago, with a few over 200, these landmark residences have withstood the test of time. The following is a brief history of these remarkable dwellings.St. Matthews

Bullitt-Oxmoor House, 720 Oxmoor Avenue, built 1791: Alexander Scott Bullitt was a nephew of Captain Thomas Bullitt, who in 1773 was a land surveyor of the Louisville region. Alexander married Mary Churchill Prather, after the death of his first wife, Priscilla Christian, who was a niece to Revolutionary War patriot Patrick Henry. Henry was Governor of Virginia in the 1770s and 1780s when Kentucky was part of Virginia.  Alexander also served as Kentucky’s first lieutenant governor and is the namesake of Bullitt County. This “country estate” has been expanded and renovated numerous times over the past 230 years. Slave cabins still exist on the property. It is owned by the Thomas Walker Bullitt Perpetual Charitable Trust. The Filson Historical Society periodically holds events here that are open to its membership and sometimes the public.

Christian-Arterburn log cabin, 201 Bullitt Lane, c. 1785: William Christian was an officer in the French and Indian War, and Revolutionary War. His wife, Anne, was sister to Patrick Henry. Their daughter, Priscilla, married Alexander Scott Bullitt, who built the nearby Bullitt-Oxmoor House. William and Rachel Arterburn acquired the Christian property in 1830. The Arterburn descendants once owned large tracts of land along Shelbyville Road.

“Springfield”/Taylor House, 5608 Apache Road, c. 1790: Owned by Richard and Sarah Taylor, this was the childhood home of the 12th President Zachary Taylor. Due to Taylor’s military and political career, he and his wife, Margaret, did not live there most of their life, but several of their six children were born here. The house was severely damaged in a tornado on April 3, 1974. It was restored by Hugh Hayne, who was the acclaimed editorial cartoonist for the Courier-Journal newspaper. It is one of the few presidential homes that are privately owned.

“Ridgeway”/Massie House, 4095 Massie Avenue, 1804-1805: Colonel Henry Massie married Helen Scott Bullitt, the daughter of Alexander Scott Bullitt. Architectural historian Rexford Newcomb calls Ridgeway “Kentucky’s finest example of federal domestic architecture.”

Veech House, 125 Indian Hills Trail, c. 1833: A Federal T-style house, it was owned by Alexander and Olivia Veech. It was inherited by their son, Richard, who transformed the property into the Indian Hill Stock Farm where he raised cattle, trotting horses and potato crops on the 500 acres.

Lewis-Oechsli House, 4070 Westport Road at Ridgeway Avenue intersection, c. 1850s: Built by Dr. John Lewis, it was later acquired by Joseph and Mary Oechsli. It was recently beautifully restored and is currently occupied by a financial services business.

Chenoweth House, 255 Chenoweth Lane near Ormond Road, 1869: Owned by Dr. Henry and Helen Chenoweth. Helen was grand-daughter of Alexander Scott Bullitt. One of Dr. Chenoweth’s most notable medical cases involved investigating the infamous Herr-Snook wedding deaths of 1891. Up to 26 people died including the groom, Winfred Snook. It was ultimately determined that the chicken salad served at the reception had spoiled, resulting in food poisoning.

St. MatthewsBrown-Monohan House, 400 Mallard Creek Road, c. 1810-1820: Now the community house to the Mallard Creek residential development, it was built by farmer James Brown. It is noted for its Flemish bond brick construction. It was later owned by Edward Monohan Sr., who was one of the founders of the Bank of St. Matthews.

Brown-Woodhaven House, 401 South Hubbards Lane, 1853: Theodore Brown inherited half of his father James Brown’s farm. He built this attractive design based on a pattern from a book by Andrew Jackson Downing. Downing was an acclaimed landscape and residential architect in the mid-1800s. He proposed the concept of a central park in New York City in the early 1850s, but tragically died before he could implement it. His friend, Frederick Law Olmsted, went on to build it and many other parks including Louisville’s park system. This house has served as the Inn at Woodhaven in recent years.

Burks-Winchester House, 615 Breckenridge Lane, mid-1850s: Accessed from Winchester Place, this magnificent house is mostly hidden by more recent residential development. It is a two-story brick structure in Italianate style with bracketed eaves, and James and Matilda Burks were the original owners. Their farm stretched south past the Watterson Expressway and west to Taylorsville Road. William Winchester Jr. later purchased the property and subdivided it. This house recently had a significant fire but has since been lovingly restored.

“Realtor” House, 4004 Norbourne Boulevard, 1930-1931: Originally built inside the old armory (now known as Louisville Gardens), it was the winner of a house design contest sponsored by the local realtor association. The designer was a young Stratton Hammon, who would go on to be one of the city’s top residential architects. After it was dismantled, it was relocated to the current site. Hammon credits this house as giving him the foundation for his successful architectural career, which began in the depths of the depression.

Several notable houses have since disappeared over the past few centuries, such as pioneer and surveyor John Floyd’s cabin at Floyd’s Station in the vicinity of the Jamestown apartments off Breckenridge Lane; James Breckinridge’s mansion on the west side of today’s Bowman Field; Thomas Cannon’s farmhouse near Lexington Road; and architect Norman Sweet’s modern house on Ormond Road.

From a president and colonial patriots to farmers, doctors and architects, these iconic residents have left a lasting legacy through their homes that we pass by on a regular basis. Their former properties have since been developed into scenic neighborhoods that current residents now call home in St. Matthews.St. Matthews

Partial sources of information for this article were obtained from the book “Historic Jefferson County” published by Jefferson County government in 2000, and the book “St. Matthews: The Crossroads of Beargrass” by Samuel W. Thomas in 1999.

Steve Wiser, FAIA, is a local architect, historian and author of over 12 books on Louisville architecture and history. His books can be found at Carmichael’s bookstores or on his website, wiserdesigns.com. Wiser also gives free history talks at the St. Matthews library. His email is wiserfaia@outlook.com.

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