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Program 816

1. Liberty Hall
2. Denby Studios
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Franklin County

For more information:
Liberty Hall Historic Site, 218 Wilkinson Street, Frankfort, KY 40601, (888) 516-5101

Producer: Nell Cox
Videographers: Jeff Hatfield, Nell Cox

At Home with the Browns

Liberty Hall

In 1796, Frankfort was a frontier town. Only a decade old, it had muddy streets and a few hundred inhabitants. But it also had been named the capital of the brand-new state of Kentucky in 1792—thanks to the local businessmen who put up money toward a statehouse, outbidding Lexington and several other towns—and its leading citizens saw great potential for growth.

One of those leading citizens was John Brown, a chief architect of statehood and Kentucky’s first U.S. senator. Brown bought land in downtown Frankfort bordering the Kentucky River in 1796 and began construction on a house he named Liberty Hall. In 1801, he moved in with his wife, Margaretta, and infant son. Their descendants would occupy Liberty Hall for more than a century.

A Virginia native, Brown had moved to Kentucky—then still a county of Virginia—in 1783, first settling in Danville. He represented the Kentucky district in the Virginia Senate, the Continental Congress, and the U.S. House of Representatives, lobbying tirelessly all the while to have his new home territory separated from Virginia and made into a new state. That resolution finally passed Congress in 1791, and the next year Kentucky’s first governor, Isaac Shelby, appointed Brown to the U.S. Senate. He spent three terms there, twice serving as president pro tempore, but was defeated in his bid for a fourth term in 1805. Brown then came home to Frankfort, where he was a trustee of Harrodsburg and of Transylvania University and a leading member of various civic and cultural improvement societies. At the time of his death in 1837, he was the last surviving member of the Continental Congress.

Of John and Margaretta Brown’s five children, only two lived to adulthood. Elder son Mason inherited Liberty Hall, while younger son Orlando built a second house on the property. Liberty Hall became a museum in 1937, when a group of concerned citizens formed a corporation to buy and preserve it. Orlando’s last remaining descendant lived in the second house until 1955, then willed it to the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Today, both of these elegant mansions are preserved as the Liberty Hall Historic Site. Visitors can tour both homes, which together house a fine collection of 19th-century furniture and artworks, and stroll beautifully manicured grounds leading to a view of the river. The site is located at 218 Wilkinson Street between Main Street and Wapping Street in downtown Frankfort. It is open for tours from March through mid-December.

(This segment was excerpted from Nell Cox’s half-hour documentary Liberty Hall of Kentucky.)

Watch This Story (16:39)

Woodford County

For more information:
• Denby Studios, 4900 McCowans Ferry Road, Versailles, KY 40383, (859) 873-1298

Producer: David Brinkley

Hands of Time

Shaker clocks by Denby Studios

Katherine and David Denby have been Kentuckians only since 1996, but they, too, are connected to its past. At their Denby Studios in Versailles, they hand-craft wooden clocks modeled on those of the Shakers, the 19th-century religious separatists who built two communities in the state and became known for a design style that’s both beautiful and practical, featuring clean, simple lines and the highest standards of craftsmanship.

You might say David married into craftsmanship: It was his father-in-law who introduced him to woodworking. At first it was just a hobby while he lived the 9-to-5 life. But soon after the couple moved to Versailles, David literally quit his day job to try and make a living at it. That ambition is succeeding so far, with the help of that modern innovation, the web site.

David is mostly responsible for the clocks—including both the Shaker designs and another line inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century—and he takes us through the process in this visit. But the Denbys together also create and sell hand-painted ornaments and floor cloths.

Watch This Story (7:26)

SEASON 8 PROGRAMS: 801802803804805806807808
809: Simple Pleasures and Hidden Treasures810811812813

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