Historic Structures

Building Description Scotland Mansion, Frankfort Kentucky

Originally the formal approach to the portico on the north front of the residence was up a straight drive from the Leestown Road. Scotland is and has always been located between several major transportation routes. The main house is now approached by a winding drive that leads off the Versailles Road between low exposed stone bluffs through informally maintained grounds parallel to I-64, past several cottages, up to the top of the knoll on which the house is set. West of the house, leading to the ample screened 1920s porch that is now used as the main entrance, the drive forms a circle with a Victorian fountain in the center. On the south is the quaint stone overseer's house, with its exterior staircase, facing the ell of the main house. To the south are the remains of the formal gardens laid out in the 1920s by Mrs. C. W. Hay, with a shingled guesthouse at the end of the former alle (the elaborate gardens, laid out by Mrs. Hay with the intent of preserving those maintained since the Scott's original gardens, were extensively described by Elizabeth Thompson in. her 1939 book, Old Kentucky Homes and Gardens, pp. 52-54). Barns and other farm buildings complete the complex to the west and south. The ground falls off steeply east of the house to the site of the spring, with rolling fields and barn-dotted ridges beyond. The highway is, of course, across the north end of the property with, unfortunately, a factory across from the house.

The house faces approximately north at the edge of the knoll. It consists of the square main block, with its ungabled portico, and a long rear ell extending from the west end of the south side of the main block. The ell seems to incorporate at least one earlier structure, and has been added onto and altered several times. Except for a large one-story porch added on the west side in the 1920s, parquet floors in several first-floor rooms, and some minor functional improvements, the main block is virtually in its original form.

The north front has five bays, the portico across the center three. The main block is two stories high, two rooms deep with a fairly narrow center hall. (There is a secondary cross-stair at the rear of the main block in the ell.) There are two flush chimneys on each side, flanked by symmetrical windows, some of them blind with closed shutters. The windows are very large with six-over-six-pane sash, extending almost to the floor inside. There is a very low hipped roof covered with standing seam metal, surmounted by a flat deck or belvedere, and invisible from the ground.

The exterior of the house is completely dominated by the colossal but austere classical order and the geometry it imposes. Broad, plain pilasters mark the corners and the ends of the portico, without; interrupting the flat expanses of the side walls. The attic is contained in a very high brick entablature that encircles the entire main block and the portico, with only a single raised fillet that also serves for the sills of the attic windows on the sides. The stone capitals of the pilasters and the painted, shaped brick columns of the portico, minimal in terms of the number of moldings and total lack of ornament, project far enough to cast clear shadows and articulate the juncture of horizontal and vertical elements. Brick pilasters and columns have no bases, but rest directly on a narrow ashlar water table, with separate cubic pedestals for each column. The foundations and portico floor are rectangular slabs or panels of textured stone, with carefully-controlled chisel marks defining the edges of each block.

There are projecting stone sills throughout, but flush stone lintels only on the north front. The entrance has flat wooden pilasters and a reduced version of the main entablature. There is no ornament on the exterior, but a subtle diversity of structural textures. The wall surface on the north front is laid in normal Flemish bond, although the wide pilasters are unbonded. The west side, however, has an unusual, if not unique, bonding system of two stretchers and one header in each row, so that a vertical pattern of headers appears (and the meticulous quality of the brick-laying is displayed). The rear of the main block and the ell have the usual common bond.

This purposeful austerity is only slightly relaxed inside the house. The layout has the standard four rooms on each floor of the main block, with a central hall and the double parlors on the east side opening into each other through very wide openings with sliding doors. The one unusual feature of the plan is the compartmentalization of the central hall (whose relative narrowness may reflect a desire for uniform bay-widths on the exterior). There is a recessed vestibule with two sets of double doors; then a front hall with corner pilasters, full entablature, and square recessed panels in the ceiling, creating a rather compressed effect; then, past narrow double doors, the stair hall. Beyond was a door to the rear gallery along the ell, now enclosed. Although illustrated by Newconib as a typical Greek Revival staircase, in fact the stair at Scotland is atypical in both its containment and its simple, pre-Victorian railing and fairly plain stringers. The side stairs are even plainer and more delicate, and could have come straight out of a Federal house. The overall arrangement of the halls and the modesty of the stairs suggests a desire on the part of the builder to separate the public from the private areas of the house: only the front parlors are accessible from the entrance hall, and access to the upper story is obviously not encouraged.

The woodwork throughout the interior painted except for the handsomely panelled butternut (white walnut) doors is quite plain except for the ceiling cornices in the formal rooms. All the openings, including the mantels, are "eared" and defined by wide flat borders. The interior edges are beaded. The cornices are, of course, most elaborate in the double parlors, relating to the tall openings as an entablature. The profiles of the moldings are very strong. Near the top of the frieze is a band of stylized foliage very similar, if not identical, to that in the parlors of Greentree Farm - the Whitney house on Paris Pike. The upper and lower edges of the entablature are also defined by egg-and-dart moldings. The two rooms opposite on the west side of the hall have simple dentils at this point in the cornice; the dining room cornice has simple multiple moldings.

The rectangular recessed panels of the ceiling in the entrance hall and the circular panels in the double parlors are typical, finely-executed examples of pattern-book classical details, with stylized leaves radiating from the slightly raised centers, acroterion fans, and egg-and-dart borders. Newcomb in his Old Kentucky Architecture (1953) states that the decorative, modeled plaster cornices and medallions at Scotland are "excellent domestic examples" (p. 85). The chandelier medallions in the other rooms do not appear to be original, although some interesting mid-and late 19th-century light fixtures are suspended from them. The superb medallions in the double parlors no doubt derive from Minard Lafever's patternbooks.

Handsome parquet floors of oak and other woods were installed over the original and poplar floors in most of the downstairs rooms at the turn-of-the-century. The entrance hall, for instance, has a basket-weave pattern with a wide border of Greek-key meander, no doubt intended to complement the original Grecian decoration. A brilliant bevelled glass panel was inserted in the outer door of the front vestibule.

Altogether, the original interior had few frills, with a minimal amount of ornament disposed for maximum affect.