A descendant of famed bourbon pioneer E.H. Taylor has bought the historic home in which his ancestor once lived when laying the groundwork for Frankfort’s bourbon industry.
Robert Taylor Hay and his wife, Kathleen Hay, recently purchased the former Kentucky Heritage Council, 300 Washington St., in downtown Frankfort. The so-called “Queen of the Corner” is known in history circles as the Brown-Swigert-Taylor-Bradley House after its lineage of proprietors. And now it is back in the family of E.H. Taylor, of bourbon fame, who lived in the house for about a decade.
According to records from the Franklin County Property Valuation Administrator’s Office, the house was purchased for $484,500 on Feb. 28 by the Nantucket, Massachusetts-based family.
“We’re going to restore it and get it back to its former glory,” Kathleen Hay said. “It’s too early, though, for the Hays to comment on specific plans.”
Robert Taylor Hay is a direct descendant of E.H. Taylor, and Kathleen Hay said she and her husband recently bought the building because of a combination of factors: its familial connection and the efforts being undertaken to revitalize Frankfort.
“It all sort of happened by accident,” she said, noting that they had been in town in summer of 2017 for a ribbon-cutting at Buffalo Trace, which now produces the Old Taylor and Col. E.H. Taylor Jr. bourbons.
“We were taken by Frankfort and how it’s coming into its own,” Kathleen Hay said. “The opportunity to buy the house was too good to pass up.”
The original Federal-style house at the corner of Washington and Main streets was built more than 200 years ago, according to the Franklin County Trust for Historic Preservation.
Dr. Preston Brown, brother of John Brown, one of Kentucky’s first U.S. senators, constructed it in 1815. It consisted of four large rooms with two stories, which can still be delineated by the difference in construction of the foundation and original entrance at its center.
However, only 30 years later, Jacob Swigert, a prominent Frankfort attorney, added a major portion to the house in the popular Greek Revival style, reorienting the main entrance onto Washington Street, giving rise to the moniker “house within a house.”
After Swigert’s death, the house was purchased by E.H. Taylor Jr., of Old Taylor Distillery, who then occupied the home until about 1874. During his time in Frankfort, Taylor opened distilleries that would become the forerunners of today’s Buffalo Trace and Castle & Key distilleries.
Then in 1891, Union Army Maj. William Edward Bradley moved to Frankfort to manage distillery interests and purchased the property to occupy it until his death in 1905. The Bradley family continued to occupy the house until the 1930s, during which they entertained many noted guests, including Woodrow Wilson prior to his presidency. It was during this time that many of the house’s interior Victorian features were added.
After 1930 the property was leased to the P.T. Manning family, who occupied it until the 1970s, when Catherine and Louise Negus occupied the house and undertook a major restoration, adding it to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Since 1992 the house served as headquarters for the Kentucky Heritage Council, the state historic preservation office, and recently saw additional restoration work by owner H Clyde (Emerin Bradley) Reeves, after being bought in 2009.
The house has now landed back in Taylor’s family after about 145 years. An interior designer and architectural draftsman by trade, respectively, Kathleen Hay and her husband look forward to what lies in the future.
“For us, it’s the kind of project we love to do,” she said. “The building is in good shape, and we’re excited.”