Don’t Know Much About…Latrobe’s Pope Villa

pope villa lexington ky may 2015

Latrobe’s Pope Villa (2015)

I haven’t been inside Latrobe’s Pope Villa yet. The Villa was purchased in 1987 by the Blue Grass Trust after an arson fire revealed it to be Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s work.  It’s not open to the public at present as restoration is ongoing.  At least once a year, though, the Blue Grass Trust opens the house for tours.

“It is one of only three extant Latrobe residences in the United States. As one of Latrobe’s most avant-garde designs, the Pope Villa has national significance for its architect and unique design.”  Wikipedia.

Benjamin_Henry_Latrobe_by_Filippo_Costaggini

By Filippo Costaggini (The Architect of Capitol) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pope Villa was built in 1810-11 by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, America’s first professional architect.  He is best known as the architect of the United States Capitol building, as well as for designing parts of the White House.  The Villa was built for U.S. Senator John Pope and his wife, Eliza.  Eliza was the sister-in-law of John Quincy Adams.

“The Pope Villa is Latrobe’s best surviving domestic design. Its plan is unique in American residential architecture: a perfect square, with a domed, circular rotunda in the center of the second story….Latrobe’s fusion of classical sources and Picturesque theory places the Pope Villa among the most important buildings of Federal America.”  Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation.

2016 marks Benjamin Latrobe’s 252nd birthday and the 203rd year of the house.

Future plans include locating the University of Kentucky’s Masters Program in Historic Preservation in Pope Villa.  Exhibitions on architecture and interior design will be presented in the drawing and dining rooms upstairs, where the Popes entertained President James Monroe.

“I believe it’s no exaggeration to say that the Pope Villa is one of this country’s greatest treasures,” said Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “By saving the Pope Villa, preservationists are making sure that an important chapter in Kentucky’s and America’s story doesn’t get erased.”

If you’d like to learn more about Pope Villa’s history and restoration, you can visit the Blue Grass Trust’s website.   Be sure to click on the link to download the excellent brochure for even more information.

The Villa is located at 326 Grosvenor in the Aylesford Historic District of Lexington, Kentucky.  Aylesford has a mixture of Victorian, Craftsman, and Colonial Revival homes from the turn-of-the-19th-century. The University of Kentucky is just a short walk from the Villa.

Latrobe’s Pope Villa (Bricks + Mortar: Thoughts on Historic Preservation, Community, and Design, May 23, 2013)

Benjamin Latrobe’s Pope Villa (CSPAN’s 2015 LCV Cities Tour video, June 24, 2015)

 

4 thoughts on “Don’t Know Much About…Latrobe’s Pope Villa

  1. I do so enjoy learning about Kentucky and our heritage through your eyes. Costaggini is new to me, but what an artist. I almost feel as though Latrobe will turn, climb down from the portrait and take a look around. How intense he seems! Ill too, perhaps, would you say? I look forward to reading about the day you finally get to go inside his creation.

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    1. He was new to me, too, which led me on one of those internet side trips we all go on! Wikipedia says: “Latrobe spent the later years of his life in New Orleans, Louisiana working on a waterworks project, and died there in 1820 from yellow fever, the mosquito-spread viral disease, which then still afflicted America and its eastern cities with epidemics as far north as Philadelphia until the mid-19th Century.” Costaggini didn’t come to the U.S. until 1870, so he wouldn’t have known Latrobe, although they were both involved with the Capitol: Latrobe as architect and Costaggini as painter of the frieze.

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