The Blue Grass Trust sponsored one of their “deTours”* at this privately owned 1870 Italianate house located at 511 West Short Street in Lexington back in 2015:
John McMurtry was the builder and probable architect for this villa which was built for Captain John B. Wilgus***–a Union sympathizer who led the “Lexington Blues” before becoming president of Lexington National Bank. The name Parker Place relates to a previous owner of the property, Elizabeth Parker, who was the grandmother of Mary Todd Lincoln
The property was originally owned by Mary Todd Lincoln’s grandmother, Elizabeth “Eliza” (Parker) Todd. Mary Todd Lincoln’s childhood home is next door (also privately owned).
We even got to climb up to the 4th floor turret!
This small brick building next to Parker Place was part of the original property. Starting in 1833, it was used as the dispensary for the Orphan Society** that was housed in the predecessor to the 1870 Parker Place.
Captain John Parker 1784 log cabin behind the Parker Place mansion.
If you want to know more:
The award-winning BGT 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. For young professionals (and the young at heart!), deTours are always the first Wednesday* of the month at 5:30 pm*, and are always free and open to the public (*exception being holidays, weather and out-of-county locations).
**The Orphan Society, with a focus on community needs, still exists today. It had its origins in the devastating 1833 cholera epidemic in Lexington:
Disasters bring death and destruction, but they can also elicit benevolent change. Care for vulnerable populations of children and women resulted from community response to their plight. When five orphans were brought to Mrs. Gratz in the summer of 1833, she realized something substantial and permanent needed to be done. Gratz organized 24 women from different Protestant denominations into The Lexington Orphan Society. They obtained $4,400 from the state legislature and purchased the Fishback home on West Third Street for $1,300. The children were housed and a school teacher was hired. The plight of parentless children and disrupted homes brought about philanthropy and advocacy. The cholera epidemic sparked the beginning of organized altruism in Lexington. The Lexington Orphan Society, with a focus on community needs, still exists today. Terry Foody, author of The Pie Seller, The Drunk, and The Lady, https://amzn.to/2tqx1uU
***Captain John B. Wilgus
During 1866, Captain Wilgus organized the Lexington & Richmond Railroad and the Big Sandy Railroad. In the 1870s, he acquired “Parker Place” and completely rebuilt the house. He was a noted collector of paintings and sculpture, building a special gallery connected to his house to display his collection. In 1875, he was among the founders of the Kentucky Trotting Horse Breeders Association, the operator of the Red Mile. He was also an investor in numerous local businesses, including the gas works. Lexington History Museum
You can read more about Parker Place in Peter Brackney’s excellent blog post: Captain Wilgus’ Italian Villa, known as Parker Place, on deTour Wednesday Night in Lexington