Jessamine County: Chaumiere des Prairies

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July 6, 2016

Chaumiere des Prairies:  Recently bought at auction by the Ramseys of Ramsey Farm (after outbidding two developers). The Ramseys are restoring the property.  While they won’t be able to return the gardens to their full glory, they do plan to put the lake back in.  Tonight the new owner announced that they’re going to plant hemp on their acreage.

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Rear of the house. The octagonal section at the end is the oldest, built in 1823, in anticipation of General Lafayette’s visit to Lexington

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The stone rectangles above the windows were going to be inscribed with something in Lafayette’s honor, but he didn’t visit Chaumiere, so they left them blank.

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Cupboard for wigs in the wig room just inside the octagonal section.

Some of Chaumiere’s history from BGT deTours* :

Colonel David Meade acquired some 330 acres of land in this area on which he created his version of Paradise [and built] gardens that were said to have rivaled those of Versailles. Of the original structures, only the octagonal room remains. The main house was built ca. 1840 by a subsequent owner.

An auction following Colonel Meade’s death found the buyer a “plain practical farmer” following which neighbors erected a sign over the entrance to the state, with a Miltonian reference to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden: “Paradise Lost.”

Although the gardens are long gone and its site is 13 miles from Lexington’s city center, the Chaumiere des Prairies was another part of what made Lexington the Athens of the West.

*The award-winning BGT (Blue Grass Trust) deTours program is designed to provide tours of places you might not normally get to see, helping people interact with and learn about sites that make the Bluegrass special.

 

 

 

 

You don’t  often get to see the basements in these historic homes.  When BGT deTours hosts a tour, they arrange for us to have access to the entire house.

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4 thoughts on “Jessamine County: Chaumiere des Prairies

    1. Meade and his family arrived in Kentucky from Virginia in ~1796 with 40 slaves and 50 wagons of possessions–“under his direction, his slaves created the elaborate gardens.” Without inexpensive slave labor, private gardens on the scale of this one just couldn’t be maintained. I was reading more about its history and came across this snippet from Tom Eblen at the Lexington Herald-Leader: “Meade’s children decided to sell Chaumiere at auction in 1832. When farmer William Robards won the bidding, distressed neighbors posted a sign proclaiming “paradise lost.” The sign infuriated Robards, who spitefully turned his livestock loose in the gardens until they were destroyed.”

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  1. I enjoyed the pictures, too. The detail work on the house is beautiful and interesting.
    I had no idea that Lexington KY was such a treasure trove of historic sights and buildings! Nor did I knopw that it was called the Athens of the West.
    Fascinating history.

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    1. I really knew nothing about Kentucky’s history before I moved to Lexington, so I’m surprised over and over again by what I learn! I did some more reading about Chaumiere–in addition to the non-visit by Lafayette, the houses hosted “…some of the most noted people of early America. Aaron Burr visited this house often. He was held under house arrest here. This house was visited by Gen. Andrew Jackson, President James Monroe, James Madison, President Zachary Taylor, Henry Clay and the list goes on.” The newest owner outbid two developers–the Nicholasville area just south of Lex is booming–so this house could have easily been demolished for new subdivisions. A close call for historic preservation.

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