Historic Structures

Roselawn - Owsley House, Danville Kentucky

Date added: September 13, 2019 Categories: Kentucky House

Roselawn was the last home for William Owsley, Congressman, Governor of Kentucky, and Associate Justice on the State Court of Appeals. Owsley, born in Virginia in 1782, came to Lincoln County, Kentucky, as a child. He studied law under Chief Justice of the State Court of Appeals John Boyle and, after obtaining his license, began to practice law in Garrard County. He was elected to the State Legislature and shortly thereafter (1812) was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Governor Scott. In 1828 Owsley retired from the Court and returned to his home in Garrard County, Pleasant Retreat (listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975), to practice law. He sold the house and moved to Frankfort in 1837. The next year he purchased the property on which Roselawn was to be built, and established his son-in-law, Clifton Rodes, and family there. There was apparently a dwelling on the property at the time Owsley bought it, but neither this fact nor the nature of the dwelling can be substantiated. The existing dwelling reputedly burned in 1847, and the Rodes family moved to Danville. In the meantime, Owsley won the 1844 election for the Governor of Kentucky. He moved to Roselawn, built for his retirement, when his term ended in 1848 and lived there until he died in 1862.

Roselawn is a two-story, five-bay, brick house situated in the gently rolling terrain of the Bluegrass Region in northeastern Boyle County, Kentucky. It is located about a mile and a half northwest of Danville on the east side of U.S. 127 (Harrodsburg Road), and about two miles from the Mercer County line. The house, which faces southward, is set back from the highway lying to its west and sits on the northern edge of a broad, flattened knoll amidst a grove of mature trees.

The section of Boyle County in which Roselawn is located is notable for its survival of historic dwellings, as it lies between Danville and Harrodsburg (Mercer County) and was an area of early settlement between the two communities.

Constructed in 1848, Roselawn is an L-shaped brick mass consisting of a single-pile main block that is two stories high and five bays across. Attached to the east side of the rear (north) wall is an original two-story brick ell. Behind the ell is a single-story brick unit of two rooms (photos during a renovation of the early twentieth century. All portions of the building are laid in common bond and rest upon stone foundations. The main block bears a hipped roof which merges with the gable roof of the ell; the roof of the unit that was originally detached is also gable. Six chimneys serve the structure; the gable ends of the main block each bear an interior stack, as does the original north gable of the ell. Each room of the service unit bears a similar chimney at the northernmost wall.

The dwelling's primary entrance, located in the central bay of the southern facade, has four-pane sidelights placed above a pane-sized panel. The original transom has been replaced with a single pane of glass (the opposing entrance has a four-pane transom but no sidelights). A heavy, simply molded cornice, supported by paneled pilasters, tops the double-paneled doors of this primary entrance. Also centered on this entrance is a two-story pedimented tetrastyle portico which encompasses the three central bays of the facade. The columns supporting the portico are massive and have Ionic capitals. The cornice and architrave are simply molded, while the frieze is plain. Directly above the primary entrance is a tripartite window having a central portion of nine-over-six sash. The remaining first story windows of this facade are also nine-oversix and have splayed jack arches, while the windows of the second story are six-over-six. A secondary entrance, remodeled during the late nineteenth century, is located at the central bay of the ell's western facade. The pattern of piercing on this facade is similar to that of the sourthern, but three windows are false in order to accommodate the chimney stack serving the west room of the main block.The first story windows of the ell's western facade are also nine-over-six and have similar arches, while those of its eastern facade have stone lintels and sills. The windows of the service rooms have been replaced.

There have been several minor alterations to the building's exterior. The ell's western entrance was updated during the late nineteenth century. The dogtrot between the ell and the service rooms was enclosed early in the twentieth century: the dormers of these rooms, and the shedroofed porch of the east were probably added at the same time. Other changes of recent vintage include the addition of a screened porch adjoining the unenclosed porch of the service rooms, and the addition of a solarium at the rear of the main block (ca. 1940).

The plan of Roselawn's main block is single-pile, central-passage, while the ell contains a short passage and a third room. Behind this room is the now-enclosed dogtrot that separated the ell from the service rooms, which lie side-to-side beyond. These rooms were apparently originally unconnected on the interior: each has an original entrance from the outside. The passage in the main block contains no stair, but a simple straight stair with winders at the top is located in the ell passage and serves the second floor of both sections. The mantles in both rooms of the main block were replaced during the late nineteenth century, but the other original woodwork remains. The door surrounds of the passage and the door and window surrounds of the east room of the main block are Greek-earred. The west room has reeded surrounds with bulls-eye corner blocks. The room beyond the passage in the ell retains its original mantle and woodwork surrounding the doorway into the now enclosed dogtrot. The fireplace is the eastern service room still retains its crane.

The property includes a one-story, brick slavequarters, which is located a short distance behind (northwest) of the house. The double-pen building is laid in common bond, covered with gable roof, and has two exterior end chimneys. The brick has been painted. Each pen is entered by a door in the southern facade; this facade bears a shed-roofed porch. There is a lateral frame addition of one story and one cell at the quarters' west end.