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Crestwood Civic Club holiday Homes Tour

Former home of filmmaker Griffith
to be on home tour

Schwedlers have many surprises in store for visitors



CRESTWOOD, Ky. (November 2015) – Dubbed by actress Lillian Gish as “the father of modern film,” D.W. Griffith has roots in Oldham County, firmly tying him to the county long before he became famous. Griffith’s house in La Grange, Ky., is one of three unique homes on this year’s Crestwood Civic Club Holiday Homes Tour, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 21.
Griffith, born in Crestwood in 1875, eventually moved with his family to Louisville after the death of his father. In 1908, Griffith began working in the film industry, employing techniques used for the first time such as fade-out and close-up shots. Such innovative attention to detail caught the eye of many in the industry.

Photo by Helen McKinney

Donna Schwedler poses at her La Grange, Ky., home, which was once home to D.W. Griffith.

Griffith went on to make his epic film, “Birth of a Nation,” in 1915. This silent movie stabilized his career and provided him with the platform to make many more movies, roughly 500 during his career in film.
He purchased a two-story frame Victorian home in La Grange for his mother, Mary Oglesby Griffith, and his sister, Ruth. During retirement, Griffith and his second wife, Evelyn Baldwin, lived in the house from 1936 to 1939.
The house was originally built in 1905 to be used as a private residence and funeral parlor by Charles and Sue Smith. Ken and Donna Schwedler purchased the property in spring 1983. On the National Register of Historic Homes since 1975, the home features Griffith’s name etched in the concrete at the end of the front sidewalk.
It’s no secret that Donna Schwedler loves decorating for the holidays. She has a tree in almost every room. The largest is a nine to 10-foot tree in the foyer, while all the others are in the eight to nine foot range.
She has a nutcracker tree in the parlor, a Thomas Kincaid tree in the guest room, a tree in the kitchen decorated with angels and silver and gold tones, a tree in the TV room with a southwest Indiana flair. “That tree’s a little different. It is decorated with animal ornaments,” said Schwedler.
One of her favorite trees is in the upstairs bathroom, somewhere that “you don’t usually see a full-size tree.” It fits the décor of the room perfectly, decorated with miniature outhouses, curling irons, flatirons, rubber duckies and “things you would normally find in a bathroom and ornaments to show how things used to be.”
When possible, Schwedler will use fresh greenery but usually relies on pre-made items because the decorations remain on display for a long time. She likes to be decorated for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and “we do an open house every year,” she said.
Some of the decorations have been hand-made by Schwedler and her daughter-in-law. These decorations give the house an “eclectic feel.” Schwedler does a lot of cross-stitching projects with which she decorates.
The home is decorated “in more of a Queen Anne style,” she said, in terms of furniture. She even has a 1920s stove on which she cooks.
Schwedler, who is originally from Jefferson County, Ky., while her husband is from Wisconsin, said she fell in love with the house the moment she saw it. She walked in and said to her husband and the realtor, “This is the one I want,” without looking at any others.
“There was just something about the house that called to me. I fell in love with it.”
Hers is just one of three beautiful homes featured on the home tour. Hours are from 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Two luncheon times are offered: 11 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. at the organization’s clubhouse located at 7215 Kavanaugh Rd. in Crestwood. 
The Washburne-Waterfill House, the second home on the tour, is owned by Ralph and Donna Van Nostrand. Located in Pewee Valley’s historic Ashwood Avenue District, the 3,400-square-foot home has a long history.
Built as a one-room house circa 1868, most of the structure was destroyed by a fire in the late 1880s. A decade later, a new home was built on the existing foundation along with an addition. In 1900, George Washburne Jr. moved his family into the home.
Washburne was a wealthy Louisville businessman. The family rebuilt and enlarged the house using Classic Bungalow-Crafts-man architecture. They added the Washburne family crest, which still adorns one of the home’s windows today.
The Washburne-Waterfill home was originally intended to be a summer vacationing home. In 1910, it was purchased by the Joseph H. Waterfill family. Waterfill was vice president of a Louisville bank. The family lived there until 1923, preceded by two other families over the next fifty years.
Falling in love with the home and its charming surroundings, Ralph and Donna Van Nostrand purchased the 1.67-acre property in 1992. The home was placed on the Historical Registry in 1989.
The final home on the Crestwood Civic Club Holiday Homes Tour is the Bluegrass Country Estate Bed & Breakfast, located just outside of La Grange. The Bed & Breakfast was opened eight years ago by Cheryl Sabin.
Located in the heart of the L’Esprit equine community, the property was originally planned as a 5,000-acre Arabian horse farm development. There are many amenities, including horse and rider lodging facilities and 25 miles of surrounding trails.
Since opening, “we have been named one of Google’s Favorite Places, had four writers review us and include in their books, been featured in Kentucky Monthly, Today’s Woman, Equestrian organizations and publications, included in a recipe book ‘Room At the Top,’ and featured in ‘The Great Inns’ design book,” said Sabin.

• Tickets for the Tour & Luncheon are $20 or $17 for the tour only. For more information or to purchase tickets, call Laurie Venable at (502) 265-0376.

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