Historic Structures

Berry Hill Mansion - Juniper Hills, Frankfort Kentucky

Date added: October 11, 2019 Categories: Kentucky House Mansion Colonial Revival

The house which George F. Berry constructed in 1900 incorporated all the elements that the "bourbon edifice" demanded. From its very beginnings "Berry Hill," as it has become popularly known, was a venture into the high style architecture that reflected all the aspects demanded by the bourbon aristocracy within the area.

George Berry purchased the property during the last decade of the 19th century. He named the estate Juniper Hill due to the large amount of red cedars that were growing upon the property. Upon the land he commissioned the construction of a massive stone Colonial Revival structure.

Berry obtained the services of William J. Dodd and Arthur Cobb to create the plans for the house's construction. William J. Dodd came to Louisville, Kentucky after a lengthy association with the Chicago School of Architecture where he trained under William Le Baron Jenny. Upon his arrival in 1885 he formed several associations, one of the most productive being with Mason Maury. Dodd and his partner Maury designed the Louisville Trust Company Building in the city in 1891. Maury and Dodd went on to design the building representing Kentucky in the World's Colombian Exposition. The structure was completed in the new Colonial Revival style. It was with Arthur Cobb, however, that Dodd completed some of his most noted Colonial Revival structures within Central Kentucky.

According to George Berry's niece (Cornelia Roberts) the house was completed in 1900. It was widely received and appeared in the January 1904 Architectural Review.

The final result was, in fact, an exemplar bourbon edifice. The house was built out of large ashlar stone and incorporated many Richardsonian Romanesque features, which gave the Colonial Revival structure the stateliness required by the bourbon aristocrat. However, the house was not complete and in 1912 a music room was added. Family tradition holds that WJ. Dodd and Kenneth McDonald were employed to design the room and the Louisville, Kentucky firm Alfred Struck and Co. advertised images of the room as their design. The large gothic room, which family members believe cost 65,000 dollars, was adorned with hand carved oak panels. Family tradition maintains that two European wood carvers were employed for two years in order to complete the elegant room. The room was crowned with a Hillgreen, Lane and Company cathedral organ that still resides in the room today.

George F. Berry had indeed produced the perfect bourbon edifice, which incorporated not only the high style architecture popular during the period, but also the defining characteristics required by the bourbon aristocracy. The house's physical features proclaim very clearly that it was the product of a powerful, wealthy, and cultured individual; however, it is how Berry used his home that most clearly illustrates the nature of his involvement in the region's cultural resources. George Berry desired to play his organ and engaged Sidney Durst of the Cincinnati Conservatory as his teacher. Durst was often an extended guest on the estate and played midnight recitals to preferred guest who flocked to Juniper Hills. It seems that the Berry Mansion played host to some of the most influential and widely celebrated musical guests of the day, as invitations to those performances today document. The music room also played host to local music clubs and social organizations and invitations to these affairs were wildly published in the local papers.

George F. Berry died in 1938 and his wife Mary Bush Berry in 1950. The mansion and estate passed to his niece Cornelia Gordon Roberts who in turn sold the estate to Louis Rosensteil, president of Schenley Distilleries. However, he never occupied the house and by 1953 the city of Frankfort purchased the estate. During 1957 the city sold 42 acres and the residence to the state of Kentucky. The city retained the remaining acreage and developed the Juniper Hills Municipal Park, which is still used by the community. The residence was transformed to the Kentucky Library Extension Division and then to the Kentucky Department of the Arts. However, by 1991, the venerable mansion became the home of the Kentucky Division of Historic Properties. The residence and grounds are now operated by the Kentucky Division of Historic Properties and are open to the public for tours and rentals.