Most Historic Inn
"Bed & Breakfast"
In 2007 we celebrated the 75th
Anniversary of "The Garland of Roses"
First commissioned by Sam
Culbertson for the 1932 Kentucky Derby
invite you to come and stay at The Samuel Culbertson Mansion historic bed and
breakfast inn on your next visit to Louisville. This
Georgian Revival mansion is located in the heart of the
Louisville National Historic District,
Louisville, the University of Louisville and Churchill Downs. Pamper yourself with the
opulence of the Gilded Age, and enjoy a piece of traditional Kentucky in this
former home of a President of Churchill Downs and the "Two Little Knights
Get Tycoon Treatment...
(from the Cincinnati
What's Doing in Louisville
(from The New York TImes)
OF THE MANSION
March 1896, the local newspapers announced that Samuel Alexander Culbertson,
son of Indiana's wealthiest man, William Stewart Culbertson, a dry goods,
railroad, utilities and banking tycoon, had
purchased land on Third Avenue, the most fashionable street in Louisville, to build his new home.
After barely a year of construction, the
mansion was completed in 1897 just in time
to receive guests for the 23rd running of the Kentucky Derby. And for
the next half century the
Kentucky Derby was to be the focus of Culbertson's life and this house.
home just across the river in New Albany is a pretentious French Empire
style mansion built in 1867. It is
now a museum. Next door to that is a mansion given to Samuel
and his new wife Louise as a wedding present by his father in 1886.
William Culbertson was
totally and unconditionally opposed to gambling in any form, and even
disinherited one of Samuel's brothers for betting on horses. Young Samuel,
however, loved the races too, though in secret, and had to
wait until his father's passing to move nearer the venue that would
eventually put him into the pages of history.
When Samuel , his wife Louise, their two sons, and entourage of servants moved
into their new home, Third Avenue was the
millionaire's row of Louisville, "a genteel area at the edge of a
burgeoning city, reflecting the tastes and extravagances of the late Victorian
era. The residents worked hard to live up to the magnificence of their houses
which were furnished as lavishly as social position required and wealth
Old Louisville, 1961)
"A friend once remarked (about the Culbertson's), 'They should be a very
happy couple. They are the handsomest pair in Louisville, have the handsomest
sons, and live in the handsomest house.'"
Culbertson was a man of
wit, fastidious appearance
and confident manner. Col.
Matt Winn ("Mr. Kentucky Derby") referred to him as the Beau Brummell of
After years of association with the track as a member of the board of
directors, Samuel became
President of Churchill Downs
in 1928. From 1937 through 1948 he was Chairman of the Board. During these
Culbertson was in racing's limelight, "the perennial cotillion leader," entertaining local
dignitaries and Kentucky Derby guests from around the country and the world.
He presided over the golden years of the Kentucky Derby. Gallant Fox,
Cavalcade, War Admiral, Gallahadion, Whirlaway, Count Fleet and
Citation are but few of the thoroughbred champions that make up the
tour-de-force that was the Kentucky Derby during Culbertson's era. But it was in the
early 1930s that Samuel Culbertson achieved immortality in Kentucky Derby
history. Samuel Culbertson conceived the idea of the
Garland of Roses, and commissioned its design.
Culbertson would proudly
witness his idea become reality, with all of its symbolism, as it adorned the first Derby champion horse
to receive this accolade, Burgoo King in 1932.
All the while, the Culbertson's became a sensation in the region for the formal dinner parties and the
dances they gave in their home's third floor ballroom. And the Courier-Journal
noted: "In former days, (the Culbertsons') tallyho carriage, drawn
by four high-stepping horses bound for the race track provided a spectacle for
Culbertson lived in this house for 51 years until his death at the age of 86
in 1948. Well into his eighties, he still walked the 15 blocks to work at his downtown
office, and he had been diligently at work at his office and in apparent good
health the day before he passed away.
if that weren't enough, it must be mentioned that Samuel Culbertson's sons
had become famous in their own right already in the 1890s and early 1900s. This is
because the history of the mansion is indelibly linked to the stories
Little Colonel, which were loosely based on real-life characters and
events. In 1899, the Culbertson boys,
and William, became known to children around the world as Keith and
The Two Little Knights of
Kentucky, in the second book of
Fellows Johnston's extremely popular
turn-of-the-century Little Colonel series. And they remained
recurring characters throughout the 13 volume series. The
Little Colonel herself
remembered the boys among her dearest childhood friends. Mrs.
owned "the Beeches," the country house where many of the Little
Colonel stories take place, and that later became Annie Fellows Johnston's
home. Mamie's husband was General
Henry W. Lawton. We can
only imagine the adventures "Uncle Henry" must
have related to the Culbertson boys about his former days as an Indian
fighter, or how he captured the Apache Chief Geronimo, or how he backed
up Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill. General Lawton
was a guest at the Culbertson Mansion for several days in the
Autumn of 1898
when he came to Louisville to attend dinners and
receptions held in his honor as "The Hero of el
Caney." He would tragically never live to tell his nephews
about his exploits later in the Spanish-American War as the "super-hero
of the Philippines"
where he became the only American general killed in
action in the Spanish American War, at the Battle for San Mateo in December 1899.
One of the great ironies of American history is that Lawton, who
captured the Apache chief Geronimo in 1886, would succumb to a
sharpshooter under command of a Philippine insurgent general named
Another of Mrs. Culbertson's
Craig, was the model for "Aunt Allison" of the Little Colonel
stories. Even Samuel And Louise make a brief appearance as the
characters Sidney and Elise in the
Little Knights of Kentucky and later volumes. So much
in the Little
Colonel stories is based on real-life people, places and events. And
the mansion still boasts a respectable number of historic souvenirs and
artifacts, such as personal items once owned by Annie Fellows Johnston
and her real-life Little Colonel characters, including General Lawton,
which are on display for our guests.
In 1950, the Culbertson Mansion fell into the hands of Benton Roberson, a
builder, who converted much of the mansion into apartments during the 1950s and 60s.
Restoration was largely completed between 1975 and 1985, and
now the mansion is almost back to its former glory. Thankfully, no major structural
alterations were made to the building by Mr. Roberson. However, the beautiful
ballroom was divided then, and this has yet to be undone.
Remarkably, Roberson carefully cut around existing moldings and decorative
features when he built the partitions, possibly anticipating a time when the
room would be restored.
The mansion was built between 1896 and 1897, at a cost of $25,000, designed by
the renowned Minneapolis architect William Channing Whitney
among whose many other notable buildings include the Minnesota
Governor's Mansion and the
Building at the Columbia Exposition World's Fair of 1893.
The Culbertson home is built in the style of the
Georgian Revival, which in turn derives from the Italian Renaissance palazzo,
faithfully reproducing the lines, dimensions and even the colors of
traditional Florentine architecture. The finer brickwork, usually reserved
only for façades, continues
along both sides of the house. The
symmetrical façade is adorned with renaissance motifs, the major features
being the portico with its marble mosaic floor and twelve fluted ionic columns
of European red sandstone (alas, now painted), an ornamental arch with
garlands on the second floor, and a third floor balcony. The columns of the
front porch are repeated on the carriage port at the south side of the house.
The high-pitched roof (necessary for this climate) was originally constructed
The Renaissance theme of architectural ornamentation
continues inside the house, especially in the reception hall, , dining room
and library, rich in woodwork and all with massive beamed or coved
ceilings. The ladies
parlor (or "morning
room") is in the style of Louis XVI., and the
room reminds us of a room in an English
manor. Altogether, the building has over 50 rooms in approximately
20,000 square feet of floor space including a full habitable basement. There
are an additional 3,500 square feet in the twin-spired two-story carriage
house at the rear. The mansion and carriage house enclose a formal
with a fountain and a rose garden containing over 100 varieties of roses.
Yes! We're open for the Holidays!
Be sure to check the
Louisville Guide to see our neighborhood, America's largest
Post Card, 1906 showing 1890s view
Post Card, 1919
Samuel Culbertson Mansion
1432 South Third Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40208
(866) 522-5078 toll free
fax (502) 636-3096
Post Card, 1909
Click on any picture to see an enlargement or detail
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