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On Saturday, The Garden Club of Frankfort and the Frankfort/Franklin County Tourist Commission held it’s 10th Annual Frankfort Home & Garden “Living in History” Tour. The “Celebrating 10 Years of Frankfort’s Finest Homes & Gardens” Tour this year featured seven beautiful homes, some with gardens, and the a part of the historic Buffalo Trace Gardens as well.  The owners of these magnificent places took great pride in restoring, renovating, and tending to their respective gardens and properties and were chosen to showcase a several aspects of Frankfort’s unique culture and place in history.

Take trip wit Capital Living, as we visited several of the properties on the tour that day and show them through the lens and even through live and edited video done that day.

The Strong Home & Garden – Two Creeks Neighborhood

Built in 1990 by Susan and Gene Strong, this spacious 5 bedroom home in the Two Creeks subdivision was built was Susan acting as the general contractor at the time. Since becoming empty nesters, the Strongs have completed many updates to the house to modernize its amenities and accommodate large family gatherings that often include their five grandchildren.  The interior includes many beautiful pieces collected from around the world, including a dining room set and bench from Italy located in their eat-in kitchen. The central living room is filled with light and features a cathedral ceiling and large windows overlooking the backyard with in ground pool. A cozy all-season enclosed porch sits just off the kitchen, and provides a peaceful retreat.  The master bedroom suite includes a recently enlarged and updated bathroom, featuring a large walk-in shower and soaking tub.  The home’s lower level is a place for the family to enjoy gatherings and includes a game room with wet bar that opens onto a covered terrace and the large in-ground pool beyond.

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The Sower Home & Garden – Downtown Frankfort

In 1879, the old Frankfort Cotton Factory was demolished and the land divided and sold.  Former Frankfort Mayor John R. Sower acquired a parcel known as the cotton mill property and built this beautiful brick Victorian home in 1906.  Since that time, the home has been occupied by three generations of the Sower family.  A contributing building to the Corner in Celebrities Historic District, the house was acquired three years ago by the grandson of the original owner’s grandson, also a former city mayor of Frankfort and current City Commissioner, John Sower and his wife Phyllis.  After an extensive two-year renovation, the home features beautiful original woodwork, antique family pieces, and mementos from world travels along with modern amenities such as the updated kitchen.

One of Frankfort’s original streets, Wilkinson Street connected the community of Leestown (where Buffalo Trace Distillery is located) to Frankfort’s first river ferry crossing.  At the corner of Wilkinson & Wapping stood the Love Tavern, where Kentucky’s legislature held it’s first meeting.

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The Alice Blanton Guest Cottage – Leestown

Located in the community of Leestown, the original settlement and precursor to the City of Frankfort, The Beeches is one of the last remnants of what was once one the largest communities on the Kentucky River.  At one time, it was even considered for the site of the State Capitol.  The Blanton Family’s association with Leestown dates to the founding of Kentucky. This influential family is known for the development of what would become Buffalo Trace Distillery.  Harrison Blanton built the grand Federal Style home in 1779 along the original Leestown Trace. His grandson, James bacon Blanton, inherited the house and farm and made many improvements in his time.  About 1905, JB and his brother Albert dismantled an old stone cookhouse behind the main house and in its place built a two-story brick building that would serve as servants’ quarters for the family cook and groundskeeper, as well as a dairy and laundry for the farm.  In 1965, Ms. Alice Blanton renovated the property for living space. When Buffalo Trace Distillery purchased the property in 2004, they renovated the building as a cozy guest cottage for distillery visitors. Last year, pipes in the building froze and burst. Water flooded the house and the distillery has recently completed the repairs and second renovation.  The Beeches, cottage, and grounds were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Ms. Blanton still occupies The Beeches, which was featured on a past Home and Garden Tour.

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The Albert B. Blanton Botanical Garden & Bird Sanctuary – Buffalo Trace Distillery

Visitors to Buffalo Trace will be delighted with the Albert B. Blanton Botanical Garden and Bird Sanctuary at Buffalo Trace Distillery.  Restored gardens, stone steps, and curving paths surround the Albert Blanton residence, built in 1933, and affectionately known as “Stony Point“.  Lovely benches offer resting places for one to absorb the peaceful views. Colonel Blanton, a descendant of the founder of what is now Buffalo Trace Distillery, loved to garden, and roses and mums were among his favorite plants to use. Today, on the top of the hill, you will see a combination of new elements and preserved features such as the original stone walls and a restored water feature. Phase 1 of the garden restoration began in 2012 and included the Terrace, Rock, Rain and Beech Path Gardens. Phase 2 began in 2013 and included the addition of the Pergola, Cabin, trail, and Yew Gardens.  Phase 2 work, all done by the Buffalo trace Homeplace Team, includes new paver walkways, an arbor, pergola, and meandering gravel path. The rebuilt Garden Shed and restored Smokehouse add to the historical atmosphere of the place.  In 2018 Buffalo Trace plans to add to the gardens with Phase 3, which will include a pavilion for outdoor events such as weddings. The grounds are part of the National Historic Landmark, and the beauty of these gardens is a compelling attraction for all visitors to Frankfort and it’s residents.

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The Knight-Taylor-Hockensmith Home – Peaks Mill

This beautifully renovated Victorian farmhouse is located on the east side of Peaks Mill Road along the scenic Elkhorn Creek.  When Edmond Thompson inherited the house that had belonged to his parents, he had no idea that he and his wife, Wendy, would take on a three-year total renovation and then make this their own home. The house had deteriorated after sitting unoccupied for 16 years.  After a Kentucky Heritage Council study of rural historic resources in Franklin County brought to light the history and significance of the house, it was listed on the National Register of the Historic Places in 2013. Thompson subsequently committed to save the house; his substantial investment aided by state historic preservation tax credits. Originally on a 600 acre farm, the house was built in three distinct stages between 1850 – 1920’s. It began as a single room log structure with a loft, enlarged by a second log room early on.  The original builder, Mr. Knight, was also the namesake of the adjacent covered bridge – one of the earliest (c. 1820) to cross Elkhorn Creek.  By 1882, Mr. Taylor purchased the log home and enlarged it by adding a Victorian section comprised of an additional four rooms with elaborate trim both inside and out.  By 1900, the property was acquired by Mr. Hockensmith, who in the late 1920’s added a bathroom and incorporated an outbuilding (possibly a smokehouse) to make an attached kitchen.  The property was eventually purchased in 1947 by Edmond Thompson, father of the current owner.  Edmond and Wendy Thompson’s deep affection for the property is evident in the way they have carefully renovated the house, respectful of its historic materials and details while adapting it for modern living.

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The Sewell Home & Garden – South Frankfort

Built in 1930 during the last decade of a major building boom in South Frankfort, following the completion of the “new” Capitol building in 1914, the plans and much of the finishing materials for this home were obtained through the Home Builder’s Catalog, published by Hope Lumber Company of Weston, WV. Mail order plan & catalog homes helped to popularize several architectural revival styles, as well as new styles such as Arts and Crafts. Local builders typically made use of stock components and tweaked the standard design to suit each site and clients’ preferences. In this house, the side gambrel roof shape and full length shed dormer are characteristic of “Dutch Colonial,” an architectural style made popular during the 20’s & 30’s. The focal point of the symmetrical facade is the front door, which is adorned with a fanlight, sidelights, pediment overhang, and original copper lighting. Originally owned by Sue Stagg, the house remained in the family until 1964. It was then purchased by the McDougal family until it was sold to Gavin Sewell in 2015. Gavin has preserved the home’s remaining original details and has embraced some later renovation additions to homage to the McDougal family, who loved, cared for, and lived in the home for many years. He has completed upgrades to the plumbing and electrical systems, renovated the kitchen and bath, repaired chimneys, replicated and reinstalled original moldings. His sensibilities are evident in the new finishes and fresh decor that wholly embrace the comfort of timeless and traditional design.

The backyard garden, as simplistic as it is, is cozy and features a raised vegetable garden with hay bales, making great use of the space available. No doubt the homeowner enjoys evenings in his backyard relaxing with a cold beverage.

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