Shared with TripAdvisor – Re: The Lovely Conrad-Caldwell Mansion in Louisville

During the first week of October, at the annual St. James Art Show in Louisville, I had the pleasure of volunteering as a tour guide for the Conrad-Caldwell house on St. James Court. On Day One, I was stationed in the Billiards Room on the third floor where I enjoyed the questions of tourists and meeting new people. During one memorable moment, I watched the vivacious and intrepid Executive Director of the mansion, Ally Wroblewski, hang out of the third floor window to tie ropes from a gigantic plastic poster around gable posts while assuring me that she felt quite safe. As a writer, I love obscure stories and was intrigued by a postcard on a wall display in the Billiards Room that showed in photographs the history of the Ohio River trade. The postcard’s long-ago message reads: “Hope you are well and in good health make me some candy and send me am nearly starving.” The most pertinent facts on my info sheet describe how the Conrad-Caldwell house was finished in 1885 at a cost of $75,000.00, an enormous amount at the time. Mr. Conrad was in the leather business and it was a retirement home for him and Mrs. Conrad. It was W. E. Caldwell who had moved to Louisville in 1885, and prospered in a water tank business, who purchased the home in 1905. Mrs. Caldwell took two years to make improvements and added the touches that make the inside of the house a glorious wonder. Mr. Caldwell’s water tanks were not only for the city and big businesses, but were also used in making vats for silos, distilleries, etc. One example is a sign made by his company which is an advertisement—an Old Forrester Bottle replica that hung on the Brown-Forman property for decades. On the second day of my volunteer work, I was stationed on the second floor, guiding people through the bedrooms of Grace Caldwell, Mr. Caldwell, the family sitting room, and the guest room—for eleven months of the year. During one month each year it served as the sewing room where a lady stayed while traveling from home to home—spending one month at each to do their sewing. What a life she must have had! There was also the housekeeper’s room. We were told that many years later, after the first Mrs. Caldwell had died, the master married the housekeeper. Quite a difference in the bedroom she inherited from the one where she had stayed as housekeeper. My third volunteer experience was yesterday, in the Library on the first floor, trimming a tree for Christmas. The decorations were in baskets, and we hung homemade ornaments, feathers, pine cones, strings of artificial berries, and big shiny bows on the lighted branches. It made one beautiful tree of several in this splendid house. I enjoyed a discussion with Barb Caldwell Huber, docent and great-granddaughter of Grace and W. E. Caldwell. She told of her daddy’s stories, of the ghosts seen in the mansion, and spoke of many interesting facets of the history of her ancestors’ house, including the dumb waiter, the inter-com, the wheat patterns in the woodwork that depict wealth and abundance. Barb is a kind and interesting woman, and she invited me back. “On December 6th & 7th, 2014, the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum will host its 8th Annual Victorian Tea in conjunction with the Old Louisville Holiday Homes Tour. Set within the Conrad-Caldwell House, decked out in Holiday decor, this traditional Victorian Tea will feature sweet and savory treats as well as a selection of teas. All proceeds from this tea will benefit the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum. For more information contact the Museum office at 502-636-5023.  Space is limited …Tickets are $30 per person…After Tea get your fill of festive cheer at the 58th Old Louisville Holiday Homes Tour! Good cheer and tidings of the season abound as visitors to this one-of-a-kind national historic preservation district tour nine neighborhood dwellings that have been lovingly decked in old-world finery and festive holiday décor.”

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