Liberty Hall

Liberty Hall is a historic house in Frankfort, Kentucky that was built in 1796 by American statesman John Brown. It was declared to be a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1971.

History

The history of Liberty Hall Historic Site can be traced back to 1786, when General James Wilkinson purchased much of the land that is downtown Frankfort. Wilkinson laid out the town of Frankfort, naming the streets for friends, famous people and places, and even himself. Some of Wilkinson's original streets, Wilkinson, Wapping, and Montgomery (now Main) form the boundaries of three of the four sides of Liberty Hall Historic Site. Wilkinson ultimately sold the tract that includes Liberty Hall to Frankfort resident Andrew Holmes. In 1796, Holmes sold the four acres to Senator John Brown (Kentucky).

John Brown began construction of a home on the property shortly after purchasing it, though he was often away in Philadelphia. The architect of Liberty Hall is unknown, although John himself may have done some of the design. One of the earliest brick homes in Frankfort, the bricks were fired locally from clay dug from the cellar. The construction continued until 1800 when the house was substantially complete, lacking only the glass windows, which were added in 1804. In addition to the main house, several dependent structures were built on the property, including a kitchen and laundry, smokehouse, a privy, stables, carriage house, and slave quarters.

In 1835 John Brown divided his property in order that his sons would have equal inheritance. His elder son, Mason, would inherit Liberty Hall. For his younger son, Orlando, Brown hired Gideon Shryock, designer of the Kentucky Capitol, to design a new house. Constructed in the Greek Revival style, the Orlando Brown House was built by local contractor Harrison Blanton. The entire project cost just $5,000.00.

In 1934, Mary Mason Scott, John Brown's great granddaughter and the last resident of Liberty Hall, passed away leaving Liberty Hall to her brother, John Matthew Scott. He sold Liberty Hall to a group of concerned citizens who had formed Liberty Hall, Inc., a nonprofit organization. They opened the house as a museum in 1937. The Orlando Brown House was occupied until 1955. At her death, Orlando Brown's last remaining descendant, Anne Hord Brown left the house to the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Kentucky (NSCDA-KY). The Dames opened the house as a museum in 1955.

Residents

John Brown (September 12, 1757 - August 29, 1837) was an United States lawyer and statesman who was very involved with creating the State of Kentucky. Before statehood he represented Virginia in the Continental Congress (1777–1778) and the U.S. Congress (1789–1791). While in Congress he introduced the bill granting Statehood to Kentucky. Once that was accomplished, he was elected a U.S. Senator for Kentucky, a position he held until 1805.

Additionally, Liberty Hall has been the home to two U.S. Senators, one Vice-Presidential candidate, one Governor of Missouri, one Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, one Ambassador to France, one U.S. District Attorney, three U.S. Army colonels, two doctors, one newspaper editor, and the ancestral home of one of the most beloved children's authors, Margaret Wise Brown.

It was declared to be a U.S. National Historic Landmark on November 11, 1971.

Today

Today Liberty Hall operates as a historic house museum and is open to the public for tours from March to November. The site also hosts several special events throughout the year.

Stolen Artwork

In August 2009, two miniature portraits of John and Margaretta Brown were stolen from the home. The portraits were painted circa 1800 in honor of their wedding in February 1799. Both portraits were painted on ivory and framed in brass. The portrait of John Brown is 1.5" by 2.5" and may have been painted by Robert Field or Walter Robertson. The portrait of Margaretta Brown is 2" by 3" and is attributed to Pierre Henri. The paintings have not yet been found.

Building Activity

  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator
  • updated a digital reference and removed a media
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com