Mixing history with holidays

Tours and music bring the holidays
to life at Louisville’s Locust Grove

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The sights and sounds of a long, forgotten era await visitors to Locust Grove in eastern Louisville. In the tradition of the original owners, the circa 1790 home welcomes visitors to participate in many holiday events that accompany the hanging of the greens.

Locust Grove Entertainment

Photo provided

Re-enactors of the Clark and Croghan
families prepare for the holidays.

“The house is decorated for early holiday times,” said program director Aileen Novick. Candles and fruit add a touch of simple elegance to fresh greenery draped throughout the Georgian-style mansion.
Candlelight tours are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9-10. Guests will witness members of the Clark and Croghan families as they prepare for the holidays, said Novick. Re-enactors will interact with each other and guests to tell the story of the two families and their life at Locust Grove.
William Croghan, an Irish immigrant, came to Kentucky as a surveying partner with future brother-in-law, George Rogers Clark. Croghan married Clark’s sister, Lucy, and began constructing the home a year later. During the last nine years of his life, Louisville founder, Gen. George Rogers Clark, lived at Locust Grove.
There is a lot of activity during the tours, said Novick. This event has been well attended in the past, and visitors can tour through the home at their own leisure. Singing and dancing take place in the third-story ballroom, and guests are invited to participate in these activities. Such gala occasions are not new to the home, since it was once a center for political and social figures of the period.
Cookies and cider will be served in the Visitors Center. Tickets are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $3 for children ages 6-12. Period correct woodworkers, cooks and farm managers will be on hand to demonstrate and answer questions at other sites on the property.
At 1 p.m. on Dec. 7, Locust Grove’s Wednesday Lecture Series will conclude for the year with a performance by the Louisville Dulcimer Society. The society gives an annual performance in the Visitor Center at Locust Grove every year.
Fifteen members of the Louisville Dulcimer Society will perform holiday and folk tunes. “It’s always very festive, like a tea,” said Novick. Refreshments will be served before the performance, and a small admission price is charged.
Although this program is not a lecture, performers will talk about the Christmas music they will be playing. “It’s a festive way to start the season,” said Louisville Dulcimer Society member Janey Robertson.
Robertson, who writes the societies newsletter and helps maintain the website, joined the group several years ago because she wanted to play Christmas music. Having played other stringed instruments, she decided she would learn to play the dulcimer.
Formed in 1978, membership in the society is based on family membership. There are approximately 150 family memberships, said Robertson. Each one may consist of one to three people or more. There are 30 to 50 active members.
“Everyone wants to play at Locust Grove,” said Robertson. She remembers a past performance where a snowfall blanketed the grounds and made the surroundings “so picturesque.”
The Louisville Dulcimer Society will perform a broad spectrum of American and European Christmas music, said Robertson. Tunes will be performed from pre-Christian times to the present, with the exception of copyrighted material.
The final performance of the Chamber Music Concert Series will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 in the ballroom, the scene of many festive nights for the Croghan family. Light refreshments will be served at 5 p.m. and reservations are required.
“Wit and Mirth: Or Pills to Purge Melancholy” will showcase portions of a larger selection of songs from 1698-1720. The selection is taken from the works of popular composer, musician and poet Thomas D’Urfey, and will be presented by a group of individuals comprised of Tom Gerber (keyboard), Allison Edberg (violin), and Phil Spray (violone). D’Urfey wrote more than 32 plays and 500 songs.
The Chamber Music Concert Series consists of four concerts a year in January, February, October and December. Ticket prices are $15 for each performance and can be purchased in advance by subscription. They also make great stocking stuffers.
Locust Grove changed hands and left the Croghan family in 1878 to become the home of riverboat Capt. James Paul.
The next owner, Richard Waters of Hermitage Farm in Oldham County, bought the property in 1883. In 1961, Waters sold Locust Grove and 55 surrounding acres to Jefferson County and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
It took three years to renovate the historic home back to its former grandeur and open it to the public. In addition to the main house, the original smoke house and eight other stone and log supporting farm buildings are maintained on the property, located at 561 Blankenbaker Lane.

• For more information call Aileen Novick at (502) 897-9845 or visit: www.locustgrove.org.

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