Federal Hill, otherwise known as My Old KY Home, is a museum, a state park, an amphitheater and a golf course. It is a must see for anyone interested in the history of the area or of the ballad itself. Written by Stephen Foster around 1852, “My Old Kentucky Home” was an anti-slavery ballad composed to draw attention to the issue.
Situated on over a thousand acres in Kentucky, the mansion was built by Judge John Rowan and his wife and was said to be the inspiration for the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (by Harriet Beecher Stowe) which, in turn, inspired Foster’s ballad. In fact, Foster was Rowan’s cousin. The home now stands as a historic museum to honor the architecture as well as Foster’s contribution to the country (also able to be seen while on site in musical form). Many historical figures were said to have visiting the mansion - including Marquis de Lafeyette and Andrew Jackson.
The collection at My Old Kentucky Home is one of the most thorough and unique selection of paintings, decorative objects and original artifacts in the house museum community.
Federal Hill - The main attraction at My Old Kentucky Home is the mansion itself. Originally built in the early 1800s as a brick one story, two room farmhouse, it was expanded to the size it is today in 1812. Constructed in what is called “federal” architectural style (a style that was meant to replicate the iconic structures of Rome and honor their governmental system). It has been restored after a fire and the interior is decorated with Victorian flare (curtains, furniture, etc).
Furniture - The furnishings are mostly all original and around 200 years old, which is a change to view history. A centerpiece is a sofa from 1820s, designed with mahogany wood and burgandy cushions, in the federal style.
Artifacts - There are many original paintings and artifacts in the home as well. Visitors should make sure to view an 1840s oil portrait of Stephen Foster by artist Frederick R. Spencer, as well as a unique ivory miniature portrait of John Rowan by artist Matthew Jouette and a plaster “death mask” of Judge Rowan from 1843.
PGA golf course - Visit the PGA Professional (Kenny Rapier) 18 hole golf course on site, which opened in the 1930s. Rated 69.5, as well as getting 4 stars from Golf Digest, this fun but challenging course is a must play no matter the skill level of the visitor. Visit the clubhouse as well for clubs, apparel and other accessories as well as a variety of snacks and drinks. Guests can even enjoy a beer while golfing!
Musicals - At the Dan Talbott amphitheatre, guests should make sure to take in one of the shows available. Watch the Stephen Foster story, Beauty and the Beast and other rotating musicals. Tickets are in addition to the fees for the mansion tour.
Camping - RV and tent camping are both offered on the grounds of the Federal Hill mansion. Make sure to reserve ahead of time to guarantee space and enjoy this one of a kind camping experience.
For school field trips, My Old Kentucky Home offers tours catered to the age group - a mansion tour (based on the home itself and the artifacts located inside it, as well as learning about any toys that children would have played with at the time), a furniture tour (following it from tree to end product), an architecture tour (discuss terminology as well as learning about architecture in general), and a farm tour (learn about gardening hands-on). There is a small fee per student and most tours last from 40 - 45 minutes and tickets should be purchased ahead of time. Worksheets are available before the field trips as well so that teachers can plan curriculum ahead of time. Bring students to experience the history and beauty of Federal Hill, all while learning outside of the classroom. It’s a great way to get students involved in history by immersing them in it.
While on the grounds, visitors should make sure to check out the My Old Kentucky Home mercantile store. Full of unique gifts as well as more expected souvenirs like clothing and coffee mugs, the store is great for guests wanting to take home a permanent memory of their trip to Federal Hill.
My Old Kentucky Home is located at 501 E. Stephen Foster Avenue, Bardstown, KY, 40004, Phone: 502-348-3502
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