Thursday, April 17, 2008
Ward Hall: Antebellum Mansion
"...the finest place in Kentucky at that time, a veritable palace surrounded by a fairy garden."
So Ward Hall appeared to Henry Viley Johnson, nephew of it's builder, Junius Ward. It since has continued to inspire many admirers, many whose admiration has been along much more technical lines.
Junius Richard Ward and his brother, Robert Johnson, inherited large estates from their father, Col. William Ward, and early settler in Scott County, and they took as their brides two of the fairest women of the Bluegrass, Matilda Viley and Emily Flournoy. Emily, who was only fourteen when she married, was the daughter of Matthew Flournoy whose home was Walnut Hall.
Junius established a cotton commission business in the South and as his fortune became greater his mansions became more royal. His ancestral estate on Lake Washington was one of the great plantations of Mississippi, and in 1856, his Georgian mansion in Scott County was ready for occupancy.
The land on which it was built was part of a grant to Patrick Henry which was bought by Ward's grandfather, Robert Johnson, in 1780. His son, William Johnson lived in the original house until his death in 1813, and Madison Conyers Johnson, Lexington lawyer, was born there.
Fifty thousand dollars in gold was paid to Buffington, the contractor, and an additional five hundred was presented to him in appreciation of the perfection of his work.
Junius Ward used his Kentucky estate as his summer home, making the deep South his permanent residence. His brother Robert was reputed to be the wealthiest man in Kentucky, and it was his beautiful daughter, Sallie, the most noted belle of the South, who was frequently guest of honor at the grand balls at Ward Hall.
After the Civil war, Junius Ward found his fortune gone. He was forced to sell Ward Hall, which was advertised at the time of the sale as the "finest country residence in this section of the country." A later owner, Colonel Milton Hamilton, offered the house with 250 acres, plus $50,000, to the Kentucky Legislature should it agree to use the property for the state capitol.
Ward Hall is located on US 460 just outside Georgetown in Scott County.