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Cabin Fever

New book features Bernheim
Aboretum and Research Forest

Philanthropist Bernheim
left a legacy for Kentucky

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

GOSHEN, Ky. (February 2011) – A new book by Tavia P. Cathcart and Sharon A. Receveur has truly been a labor of love to write. The pair spent four years and countless hours to pen their coffee table book, “Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest.”
“I’ve loved Bernheim for many years,” said Cathcart, current executive director of Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve in Goshen, Ky. About three years ago, she wanted to send items to her family to share the joy of Bernheim with them but couldn’t find anything appropriate.

Tavia P. Cathcart

Photo provided

Louisville archivist Sharon A.
Receveur (below), a former trustee
of the Bernheim Foundation, and Tavia
P. Cathcart (above), executive director
for Creasey-Mahan Nature Preserve in
Goshen, co-authored a new book on
the 80-year history of Bernheim
Arboretum and Research Forest,
located south of Louisville.

Sharon A. Receveur

She wrote to Martha Neal Cooke, Interim Director of Bernheim Forest at the time, and sent a book proposal of her idea for a four-season book with photos and writings. Another author, Sharon Receveur, had submitted her own idea for a book about Bernheim and Cooke “decided to combine our efforts,” said Cathcart.
The result is a 280-page book printed on partially recycled paper and celebrating 80 years of Bernheim history. Published by Butler Books, it contains 500 photographs, 175 of them having been taken by Cathcart up to a year in advance.
Cathcart will hold a book signing from 6-8 p.m. on March 25 at Karen’s Book Barn in La Grange. She will appear with Receveur on March 26 at Java Brew in Prospect.
“I decided to write the book several years ago because no book had ever been written about this extraordinary place in all of its nearly 80 years of existence,” said Receveur. As a former member of Bernheim’s Board of Trustees, she was instrumental in guiding the creation of Bernheim’s archives.
“I knew that a wealth of historical materials was just begging to be shared with all of us who are grateful to Isaac W. Bernheim for his gift of this land to the people of Kentucky,” Receveur said.
“We decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to Bernheim,” Cathcart said. The book sells for $45 and for every copy sold, $20 will be donated to Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest located in Clermont, Bullitt County, Ky.
The book details the life of Bernheim’s founder, Isaac Wolfe Bernheim (1848-1945), a Jewish philanthropist and bourbon distiller. Bernheim immigrated from Germany to the United States in 1867 virtually penniless. He planned to work in New York City but made his way to Paducah, Ky., instead as a peddler. He literally sold notions for just pennies, said Cathcart.
Bernheim secured a job as a bookkeeper for a wholesale liquor company, Loeb, Bloom, & Co. He eventually brought his brother, Bernard, to America and together they established the Bernheim Brothers distributorship. This led to the creation of I.W. Harper whiskey and plenty of financial success.
Bernheim purchased and then donated 14,500 acres of land back to Kentucky. “Most people don’t realize this,” she said. Cathcart added that he bought the land in 1929, but it remained closed to the public until 1950. “He contracted with the Frederick Law Olmstead firm to design it.”

Bernheim Book

Bernheim Book

Today, Bernheim is Kentucky’s official arboretum and offers visitors 44 acres of lakes, 32 miles of trails, a 250-acre arboretum area that contains rare trees and native and wildflower meadows, world-class art displays, a visitor center and research facilities. About 2,000 acres are open to the public, and 12,000 acres are used for research.
The book is “a comprehensive overview of this rich gift to Kentucky,” said Cathcart. “We wanted to capture the majesty and beauty of Bernheim Forest through photos and tell the rich history of why it was so important to Bernheim.”
While Cathcart provided a look at Bernheimws natural history for the book, Receveur researched and wrote the historical parts of the book, describing the natural features of Bernheim and how they came to be developed and gave the book its voice.
She said Bernheim is so special because “it is one of the largest privately owned arboreta east of the Mississippi, with unique plant collections, research opportunities that provide students and scholars from all over the region and beyond with the change to contribute to the pool of knowledge about our natural world, distinct topographical elements particular to this region of Kentucky, and cutting edge green practices that are being emulated by others.”

• “Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest” is available for purchase at the Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve, local bookstores such as Borders and Barnes & Noble, the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest gift shop, and online at www.ButlerBooks.com.

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