The History of 277 Rose Hill Avenue, Circa 1838
- Now A Storybook Inn:
277 Rose Hill Avenue, now known as A Storybook Inn, was historically known as Sunny Hollow, or the Amsden-Haupt House. The structure itself dates from the early 1840s. It was home to several generations of the Amsdens descended from John Amsden, Sr., who came to Woodford County in Kentucky, from Massachusetts in 1839, 47 years after Kentucky officially became a state. Amsden was a successful Versailles merchant. He founded Amsden Bank in 1867 and was one of the founders of St. John's Episcopal Church on Main Street in Versailles. The estate remained in the family for many years as Amsden's granddaughter, Jean Haggin Amsden, married William Medlar Haupt in 1909, and they took over the house. Their daughter, Margaret, married William Hunter Fishback in 1933, but lived in Lexington at first before moving to Savannah, GA.
The two-story brick house was originally a gingerbread Victorian and had arched windows on the second floor at the front. There were six paired chimney stacks where today there are five. Five steps led up to the large front porch which stretched across the front of the house to a floor to ceiling window on each side. Around 1890, the house was expanded dramatically to a large Victorian Classic, complete with a turret on the southeast corner. The two front windows on the first floor were doubled in width and elaborate colored glass sections were placed at the top of the windows. The front porch was partially enclosed with latticework. A balcony with a low railing was added to the second floor on top of the porch with a pair of windows looking out over it. The height of the house was raised and a small curved window was added to the front gable.
The house was remodeled and expanded again in the late 1920s. All the dark Victorian elements were removed and the trim inside and out was painted white. This is the house one sees today - classic Colonial, bright and airy. The play house, with its brick floors and two rooms in the garden off the screened porch was also renovated to match the new Colonial front with fan door instead of the original Victorian facade. This playhouse was used by the Amsden's daughter, Margaret, when she was a child.
The current owner, C. Elise Buckley, is the seventh owner of the lovely old place. She has a love for history and restoration and has turned it into an upscale Bed and Breakfast called "A Storybook Inn". The house in its time was known as a gathering place for friends and family on Sunday afternoons and during the Keeneland Meet. Once again, as a Bed and Breakfast, it will be a charming gathering place for visitors from around the world.
In the most recent restoration, the thick hardwood floors were sanded down and refinished to the beauty of the original beautiful wide planked Ash. The beauty of the original hand cast plaster crown molding in the 31-foot long formal Living Room was restored and the walls were painted a rich red with white trim so that the gorgeous Chippendale molding and plaster cast molding is shown to full advantage.
The wonderfully deep coffered ceiling of the 23 foot long dining room is beautifully intact. The once cracked plaster walls of the dining room had a 4-day process called Venetian plaster applied to it so now they are smooth with a marble-like finish and glow with a warm Tuscan gold color.
There is a working elevator that has been professionally inspected and pronounced in excellent condition. The current kitchen with its tall glassed cupboards and exposed brick chimney was once the Butler's Pantry. What was once a large commercial style kitchen is now a raised paneled wood room that conjures up images of smoking jackets and Old Club drawing rooms...but no smoking allowed in this lovely room! It was handcrafted by local finish carpenter and custom mill artisan, Greg Leigh. It is the Innkeeper's favorite retreat.
The ancient stone pond was restored and many years of buildup was removed. The unique pond is large with straight concrete sides and aggregate bottom and is believed to be spring-fed since the water level did not alter during the drought of several years back. Where there was once a fountain long ago, the pond now features a lovely waterfalls that is both a delight to the eyes and ears. The requisite water lilies and lotus and Koi fish have been added. Last year, for one of the wedding days of a special young lady, there were a dozen large water Lilies in bloom in the pond!
The property has the original carriage house that is now a four bay garage. The four horse stalls one the right are still intact to the right of the first parking bay. Over the top is the 2000+ sq. feet floored loft where hay and grain were once stored, then dropped to horses below via trap doors in the floor. In the basement or lower level of the carriage house is a large stone room called the milking parlor with the metal and concrete milking stalls still intact. Ancient windows run the length of the room on one side. There are great plans for the carriage house that will come forth in the not so distant future. One day, this room will take on a new identity that will be very special.
The extensive grounds have been reclaimed and many blooming trees such as Japanese Cherry, Redbud and pink and white Dogwoods have been planted by professionals along with multiple Magnolias, Boxwood, Spruce, Pine, Leland Cypress and numerous rosebushes. The owner, Elise, has been collaborating with a local landscape designer to realize an authentic look befitting the grandeur of the property. There are stone walkways being added as well as several places to just sit and just be in a safe haven away from the world.
The stone retaining wall that wraps around the left side of the property was also restored stone by stone in dry-stack fashion. The old brick wall with the English style arched door was restored and the new door was custom made of mahogany.
The guest rooms with classic movie themes are richly done with original oil paintings, antiques and antique reproductions. The window treatments are all custom. The bedding and mattresses are of exceptional quality, affording a refreshing night's sleep. Behind the wooded property line there is the beautifully kept Big Spring Park, with its mostly wooded paved walking trail, meandering peacefully over bridges and creeks.
One often hears the cliche that it's like stepping back in time when reading about historic homes - at Storybook Inn, from the current owner, to the workers who worked on the current restoration - all have voiced these same sentiments about 277 Rose Hill Avenue. This is especially true when one sits in the large porch swing on the breezy 34-foot long Victorian screened porch on a summer night overlooking the formal garden and the stone pond. You really can go home again...at A Storybook Inn.