Peek inside the Todd House, a Federal-style home built by Kentucky's first governor
The historic home dubbed the Col. Charles S. Todd House, or the Todd House, was built by Isaac Shelby, the first governor of Kentucky. A gift for his daughter Letitia Shelby after her marriage to Charles Stewart Todd, the house has been standing on a farm outside of Shelbyville since 1834 — but wasn’t always maintained.
By the 1980s, the home had been sitting unoccupied for several years and fell into disrepair. A wall had caved in, plaster was falling throughout, and original mantels had been boarded up. Fortunately, a Kentucky resident appreciated its historical significance and saw potential. She decided to purchase the property and restore it to its original glory.
Bringing back history
"I grew up in a historic home," the homeowner told The Courier Journal. "I just got really interested in how people could live (when things were) so primitive. One thing led to another, and my husband got interested in it, (too). … We had a great time with it."
The couple worked with numerous professionals around town to make the home livable again, salvaging as much as they could and using resources from the property's farm whenever possible.
Most of the home's woodwork was saved, as were a few of the doors. The ones that had to be rebuilt were constructed from native walnut and tulip popular from the farm.
"It was just a wonderful experience," the homeowner exclaimed. "Everybody in (the area) wanted to know what we were doing with it. … They wanted it to be protected."
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When it was all said and done, the couple moved into their new home, which was then listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Kentucky Landmark.
Four steps lead to the small front porch of the Todd House, which opens to a unique entryway.
"The animals (would) come this way, too," the homeowner explained. "That’s why it’s so wide."
Today, the spacious entry boasts a round wooden table in the center, with an elegant chandelier hanging directly above. A door just ahead obscures the view of the staircase, while two doors on either side lead to the home's two parlors. Each room features fireplaces set directly across from the other — and the walls are solid, though it would appear otherwise from the outside.
"There's no windows, (but) it looks like there are windows if you drive up," the homeowner explained, adding that when the home was constructed in the 1800s, windows were a costly expense. Rather than having additional windows built in, false ones were created to maintain a look of symmetry from the exterior.
The parlor to the right is a sitting room. Built-in shelves on either side of the fireplace are lined with books and black-and-white photos. The second parlor serves as a formal dining room, where a long table seats eight. Above the mantel, there hangs a painting of Letitia Shelby Todd. It is just one of the many pieces that the homeowner has put up in the house as an ode to its original occupants.
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The exterior area of the Todd House likely holds as much historical significance as what's inside. Just outside the back door, an old well is still intact.
"That's where they washed their clothes and did (other chores) that required water," the homeowner said.
A wire covering has since been added to prevent falls into the 26-foot space, but the old brick piece adds to the property's charm.
Past the well and down a stone path is the restored smokehouse. "We put it back together exactly the way it (once) was," the homeowner said. "Every beam had a number on it and was put back in (in its) original place."
Though the space is now multipurpose, it is still occasionally used for its original intent today.
"My son still smokes his hams (there)," the homeowner said. "It’s really very good."
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When the building isn't being used to smoke meats, it offers an ideal quiet space to read, rest, or get work done away from the main house. The homeowner also uses some of the space for storage. One of the pieces kept there is an old trunk.
"Somebody gave it to me and swore that it was Charles Stewart Todd’s, from the war in 1812," the homeowner said. "All these things are pretty amazing."
She adds that it's important to preserve history, and always recommends that people save pieces of the past.
"It gives you a lot of things to talk about, and it’s fun. … I can’t believe that 200 years ago, people lived (here), and 200 years later, it’s still a good place to be."
Know a house that would make a great Home of the Week? Email writer Lennie Omalza at email@example.com or Lifestyle Editor Kathryn Gregory at firstname.lastname@example.org.
nuts & bolts
Home: This is a 4-bed, 4-bath, Federal-style home that was built from 1832 to 1834 and renovated in 1985. The former residence of Col. Charles S. Todd and Leticia Shelby is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Distinctive elements: Bricks made from the surrounding land; wood for construction harvested from a nearby grove.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Federal-style 'Todd House' was built by Kentucky's first governor