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Historic Inn
in historic Old Louisville


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Our Guest Rooms
The President's Room  The Knights of Kentucky Suite  The Little Colonel Suite 
The East Room  The Annie Fellows Johnston Room  The General Lawton Suite

Louisville’s Most Historic Bed & Breakfast Inn

We invite you to come and stay at The Samuel Culbertson Mansion historic bed and breakfast inn on your next visit to Louisville.  This Georgian Revival mansion is located in the heart of the Old Louisville National Historic District, near downtown Louisville, the University of Louisville and Churchill Downs.  Pamper yourself with the opulence of the Gilded Age, and enjoy a piece of traditional Kentucky in this former home of a President of Churchill Downs and the "Two Little Knights of Kentucky". - Rudy Van Meter, Innkeeper

In 2007 we celebrated the 75th Anniversary of “ The Garland of Roses
First commissioned by Sam Culbertson for the 1932 Kentucky Derby

Get Tycoon Treatment... (from  the Cincinnati Enquirer)
What's Doing in Louisville  (from The New York TImes)


HISTORY OF THE MANSION

     In March 1896, the local newspapers announced that Samuel Alexander Culbertson, son of Indiana's wealthiest man, William Stewart Culbertson, a dry goods, railroad, utilities and banking tycoon, had purchased land on Third Avenue, the most fashionable street in Louisville,  to build his new home.  After barely a year of construction, the mansion was completed in 1897 just in time to receive guests for the 23rd running of the Kentucky Derby.  And for the next half century the Kentucky Derby was to be the focus of Culbertson's life and this house.

     Samuel's boyhood home just across the river in New Albany is a pretentious French Empire style mansion built in 1867.  It is now  a museum.  Next door to that is a mansion given to Samuel and his new wife Louise as a wedding present by his father in 1886.  William Culbertson was totally and unconditionally opposed to gambling in any form, and even disinherited one of Samuel's brothers for betting on horses.  Young Samuel, however, loved the races too, though in secret, and had to wait until his father's passing to move nearer the venue that would eventually put him into the pages of history.

     When Samuel , his wife Louise, their two sons, and entourage of servants moved into their new home, Third Avenue was the millionaire's row of Louisville, "a genteel area at the edge of a burgeoning city, reflecting the tastes and extravagances of the late Victorian era. The residents worked hard to live up to the magnificence of their houses which were furnished as lavishly as social position required and wealth allowed." (UofL Old Louisville, 1961)

     "A friend once remarked (about the Culbertson's), 'They should be a very happy couple. They are the handsomest pair in Louisville, have the handsomest sons, and live in the handsomest house.'" (C-J, 12/12/48)

    Samuel Culbertson was a man of wit, fastidious appearance and confident manner.  Col. Matt Winn ("Mr. Kentucky Derby") referred to him as the Beau Brummell of Louisville. (Down the Stretch, 1944)

Sam_portrait.jpg (5427 bytes)     After years of association with the track as a member of the board of directors, Samuel became President of Churchill Downs in 1928. From 1937 through 1948 he was Chairman of the Board. During these years Culbertson was in racing's limelight, "the perennial cotillion leader," entertaining local dignitaries and Kentucky Derby guests from around the country and the world.  He presided over the golden years of the Kentucky Derby.  Gallant Fox, Cavalcade, War Admiral, Gallahadion,  Whirlaway, Count Fleet and Citation are but few of the thoroughbred champions that make up the tour-de-force that was the Kentucky Derby during Culbertson's era.  But it was in the early 1930s that Samuel Culbertson achieved immortality in Kentucky Derby history.  Samuel Culbertson conceived the idea of the Garland of Roses, and commissioned its designCulbertson would proudly witness his idea become reality, with all of its symbolism, as it adorned the first Derby champion horse to receive this accolade, Burgoo King in 1932.

     All the while, the Culbertson's became a sensation in the region for the formal dinner parties and the dances they gave in their home's third floor ballroom.  And the Courier-Journal  noted:  "In former days, (the Culbertsons') tallyho carriage, drawn by four high-stepping horses bound for the race track provided a spectacle for pedestrians." (C-J, 12/12/48) 

     Samuel Culbertson lived in this house for 51 years until his death at the age of 86 in 1948. Well into his eighties, he still walked the 15 blocks to work at his downtown office, and he had been diligently at work at his office and in apparent good health the day before he passed away. 

     Now if that weren't enough, it must be mentioned that Samuel Culbertson's sons had become famous in their own right already in the 1890s and early 1900s.  This is because the history of the mansion is indelibly linked to the stories of The Little Colonel, which were loosely based on real-life characters and events.  In 1899, the Culbertson boys, Craig and William, became known to children around the world as Keith and Malcolm, The Two Little Knights of Kentucky, in the second book of author Annie Fellows Johnston's extremely popular turn-of-the-century Little Colonel series.  And they remained recurring characters throughout the 13 volume series. The real-life Little Colonel herself remembered the boys among her dearest childhood friends.  Mrs. Culbertson's sister, Mamie, owned "the Beeches," the country house where many of the Little Colonel stories take place, and that later became Annie Fellows Johnston's home.  Mamie's husband was General Henry W. Lawton.  We can only imagine the adventures "Uncle Henry" must have related to the Culbertson boys about his former days as an Indian fighter, or how he captured the Apache Chief Geronimo, or how he backed up Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill.  General Lawton was a guest at the Culbertson Mansion for several days in the Autumn of 1898 when he came to Louisville to attend dinners and receptions held in his honor as "The Hero of el Caney."   He would tragically never live to tell his nephews about his exploits later in the Spanish-American War as the "super-hero of the Philippines" (C-J), where he became the only American general killed in action in the Spanish American War,  at the Battle for San Mateo in December 1899.   One of the great ironies of American history is that Lawton, who captured the Apache chief Geronimo in 1886, would succumb to a sharpshooter under command of a Philippine insurgent general named ...Geronimo.

     Another of Mrs. Culbertson's sisters, Fannie Craig, was the model for "Aunt Allison" of the Little Colonel stories.  Even Samuel And Louise make a brief appearance as the characters Sidney and Elise in the Two Little Knights of Kentucky and later volumesSo much in the Little Colonel stories is based on real-life people, places and events.  And the mansion still boasts a respectable number of historic souvenirs and artifacts, such as personal items once owned by Annie Fellows Johnston and her real-life Little Colonel characters, including General Lawton, which are on display for our guests.

         In 1950, the Culbertson Mansion fell into the hands of Benton Roberson, a builder, who converted much of the mansion into apartments during the 1950s and 60s.  Restoration was largely completed between 1975 and 1985, and now the mansion is almost back to its former glory.  Thankfully, no major structural alterations were made to the building by Mr. Roberson.  However, the beautiful ballroom was divided then, and this has yet to be undone.   Remarkably, Roberson carefully cut around existing moldings and decorative features when he built the partitions, possibly anticipating a time when the room would be restored.

ARCHITECTURE and CONSTRUCTION:

     The mansion was built between 1896 and 1897, at a cost of $25,000, designed by the renowned Minneapolis architect William Channing Whitney among whose many other notable buildings include the Minnesota Governor's Mansion and the Minnesota Building at the Columbia Exposition World's Fair of 1893. 
     The Culbertson home is built in the style of the Georgian Revival, which in turn derives from the Italian Renaissance palazzo, faithfully reproducing the lines, dimensions and even the colors of traditional Florentine architecture. The finer brickwork, usually reserved only for fa?ades, continues along both sides of the house.  The symmetrical fa?ade is adorned with renaissance motifs, the major features being the portico with its marble mosaic floor and twelve fluted ionic columns of European red sandstone (alas, now painted), an ornamental arch with  garlands on the second floor, and a third floor balcony. The columns of the front porch are repeated on the carriage port at the south side of the house. The high-pitched roof (necessary for this climate) was originally constructed of slate.
     The Renaissance theme of architectural ornamentation continues inside the house, especially in the reception hall, , dining room and library, rich in woodwork and all with massive beamed or coved ceilings.  The ladies parlor  (or "morning room") is in the  style of Louis XVI., and the drawing room reminds us of a room in an English manor.   Altogether, the building has over 50 rooms in approximately 20,000 square feet of floor space including a full habitable basement. There are an additional 3,500 square feet in the twin-spired two-story carriage house at the rear.  The mansion and carriage house enclose a formal courtyard with a fountain and a rose garden containing over 100 varieties of roses.

  


Yes!  We're open for the Holidays!

Be sure to check the Old Louisville Guide to see our neighborhood, America's largest Victorian neighborhood!

Tour Kentucky!


Post Card, 1906 showing 1890s view

Post Card, 3rd Avenue, 1919
Post Card, 1919

The Samuel Culbertson Mansion
1432 South Third Street
Louisville, Kentucky  40208

(502) 634-3100
(866) 522-5078 toll free
fax (502) 636-3096

Post Card, 3rd Avenue, 1921
Post Card, 1909

    
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The Samuel Culbertson Mansion Guest Rooms Page

The President's Room
The Knights of Kentucky Suite
The Little Colonel Suite
The East Room
The Annie Fellows Johnston Room

The General Lawton Suite

Make a Reservation
Check Availability
Your Privacy
Culbertson Lighting
Meetings, Banquets and Luncheons
Directions

 The Samuel Culbertson Mansion
1432 South Third Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40208
(502) 634-3100
toll free (866) 522-5078
Fax (502) 636-3096
rudy@culbertsonmansion.us

 


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