With all the excitement of the revitalization of downtown Louisville: new hotels, museums and cultural centers and downtown living, we are thrilled to be an Old Louisville, KY bed and breakfast and to be a part of this historical area's own renaissance. As we witness renovation after renovation and the vibrancy of this community, we see the neighborhood becoming a compelling destination for visitors to our town, who marvel at the collection of historic, Victorian era houses and their stunning architectural beauty. Our thanks to Ms Kate Clabough for this feature article, which appeared in the September 2005 issue of East Tennessee's Mountain Views.
Austin's Inn Place in Old Louisville welcomes visitors to Kentucky
By Kate Clabough
If you find yourself visiting Louisville, Kentucky and want a comfortable yet unique place to stay, make reservations at Austin's Inn Place in Old Louisville. This delightful bed and breakfast inn is housed in two beautiful vintage Victorian homes built in the late 1880s.
Current owners, Mary and Tom Austin, bought the business just over a year ago. Tom brings to the business a background in big business, computers, marketing and sales. Mary was raised in the restaurant business and worked in various aspects of real estate over the years. By Tom's admission, Mary is a great cook and hostess. The Inn boasts an ambience of luxury and visiting with good friends.
Originally, the property consisted of three homes.
"In recent history, our predecessor razed the third house, restored the remaining two, gated, landscaped with gardens and brick pavers and opened the then Antique Inn," said Tom. "The project was begun by a young bachelor entrepreneur, who, by the time he finished became a husband and a father running several businesses."
The Austin's purchased the property in July 2004, with only drapes and stair runner carpet remaining of the furnishings. They added new furniture, redecorated and opened for business in May 2005.
The houses together offer a unique Inn setting. The three story structures are connected by walkways on the first and second floors. Each has five bedrooms with private baths, including bidets.
"We live in one of the homes and use two of the bedrooms," said Tom, "One house has the kitchen and laundry rooms and three dining rooms. The other has a bar, party room, game room and parlor/library. This is why we refer to our place as a Guest and Gathering Inn, ‘Beyond B&B.'"
As with many older homes, the bedrooms were devoid of closets. The Austins were able to remedy this deficiency by having sixteen large pressed wood display cases finished out as armoires. They also needed to work on bathroom idiosyncrasies.
"While all the bathrooms have new fixtures," said Tom, "they had no countertops or cupboards, or vanity lights over the sinks."
The Austins hired an electrician to install decorative lighting and used stand-alone wooden cupboards to address the shortage of storage space.
"Much of the artwork which adorns the walls was moved from our old home," said Mary, "as was the furnishing for one dining room. Our guest rooms now offer queen or king beds, top-of-the-line memory-foam pillow-top mattresses, dressed in fine linens, blanket, pillows and comforter. Two of our king bed rooms have two-person Jacuzzi hot tubs."
Guest room amenities are TV/DVD, desk/chair workspace, foot-of-the-bed bench, easy chair/recliner, clock radio, wireless high speed Internet access, and the usual personal pampering toiletries.
Austin 's Inn Place is just blocks from the center of downtown. A fountain and lush garden adorn their off-street gated parking.
Early risers may help themselves to coffee, tea, milk, juice, pastries, fruit, and cereal. A full and hearty breakfast is also served every morning.
" We came to this business as real estate investors," explained Tom, "We are licensed realtors with our own brokerage, Austin Team Realty. Mary is the broker and she discovered this opportunity. We decided that a B&B was the best use of the property and the time was good to invest in downtown because of all the exciting developments here."
According to historian Steve Locke of www.oldlouisville.com, Old Louisville is a National Preservation District, the third largest in the nation, and the largest Victorian district in the United States. Residents, neighbors, friends, investors and developers have banded together in this unique neighborhood to revitalize an area that was, until somewhat recently, in decline. Their collective goal is to return it to its original grandeur.
"Since the 1970s, Old Louisville has undergone a spectacular renaissance," writes Locke, "yet it is still one of the ‘best kept secrets' around. Old Louisville is only a two-minute detour from the expressway, but it's really worth an entire trip."
An early notable tenant of one of the Austin's Inn Place homes was Augustus Everett Willson, governor of Kentucky from 1907 to 1911. It is probable that Willson, a lawyer by trade, built the house somewhere around 1888. He and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Ekin, occupied it from that year until approximately 1892. They had at least one son, Hiram.
Willson was born in Maysville, Macon County, Kentucky on October 13, 1846. The Cave Hill Cemetery website says he was "raised in his brother's Cambridge home, which frequently entertained the likes of Holmes, Lowell, Longfellow, and Emerson. Trained at Harvard, in whose affairs he would remain active, he returned to his native state to practice law in Louisville."
He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention from Kentucky in 1884, 1904, 1908 and 1916. He served as governor of Kentucky, 1907-11 and was a candidate for U.S. Senator from Kentucky in 1914.
While governor, Willson declared martial law in Western Kentucky during the Black Patch War. This period of domestic terrorism began due to the low prices paid to tobacco farmers in the fields of western Kentucky and Tennessee in 1904. Violence erupted and vigilantes on horseback destroyed plant beds, machinery and barns in an effort to scare independent farmers into joining a planter's cooperative. Willson did what he could to address the situation.
The governor also worked toward establishing temperance legislation pushing for Prohibition and the 18th amendment. It was ratified in 1919, eight years after he left office.
Not without his share of controversy, as is often the case with politicians, in 1909 Willson pardoned the former governor of Kentucky, William Sylvester Taylor, the former Secretary of State, Caleb Powers, and four other members of the Republican Party who had been found guilty of being involved in the murder of William Goebel, the Democratic Party governor of Kentucky.
Willson died in Louisville on August 24, 1931. He is buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.
Austin's Inn Place is located at 915 South 1st Street in Louisville, Kentucky. For more information, call 502-585-8855.