The greater majority of the structures on Rose Hill were constructed during the late 19th century. Two exceptionally pleasing houses, both of which date to the 1870s, and designed with a Gothic influence, are the Thomas Seller house and the Paulina Chrisman house. Built in 1879, the Seller house is characterized by a recessed foyer in the projecting gable, round arched windows, and a diamond-paned, standing seam roof. The house also incorporates an older portion, dating to the early 19th century.
The Rose Hill Historic District [†], situated on the west side of Versailles, Kentucky, contains the houses of some of the area's most prominent early citizens. As evidence of their affluence, the structures are among the most architecturally significant in this historic Bluegrass community. These factors combine to produce a residential district of both architectural and historical significance.
Woodford County was established in 1788, and the county seat, Versailles was incorporated in 1792. Situated between Lexington, the "Athens of the West" and Frankfort, the state capital, Versailles became a local trading center. One of the streets laid out at the west end when the town was established, and perpendicular to the commercial district downtown, was Morgan Street. The east side of Morgan has retained its name; the west became known as Rose Hill Avenue in the mid-1800s after an early structure on the street of the same name. Rose Hill is a small, but compact district. Its character has changed little from the 19th century, and is as yet untouched by the city's growth. Each structure is a contributing element in the district, interpreting architectural styles ranging from Federal to Colonial Revival.
The earliest structure in the district is the Rose Hill estate, located near the middle of the avenue. Rose Hill was originally owned by Dr. William H. Terrell, born in Woodford County in 1840. The house was possibly built by his father (also William Terrell), during the 1820s. In 1877 the house was completely renovated, obliterating whatever Federal features may have been present. The alteration, however, produced a tasteful Victorian cottage, which adds much to the district. Steeply pitched bracketed gables have a slight Gothic influence, further emphasized by round arched openings with brick hood molds on the second floor. The entire structure is dramatized by a deep setback with large trees framing the view.
Mr. Thomas Seller, vice-president of the Harris-Seller Banking Company in Versailles, and one of the town's most successful entreprenurers, owned the house at 240 Rose Hill. Mr. Seller ran a successful carriage manufacturing business until 1890, when he became vice-president of one of the larger banks in the area. He purchased the property on Rose Hill in 1884, and renovated the house, sections of which date to the 1820s. Previous owners had also altered the structure, changing its original character. Although Greek Revival in mass, the detailing of the Seller house is Victorian-Gothic.
Especially important to the economy of Woodford County for many years has been the horse industry. Prominent in that field was Mr. Guss L. Macey. His father established a training stable in Versailles after the Civil War, and his son Guss soon had few equals as either trainer or driver. At the turn of the century Guss Macey won the largest stakes race ever trotted for at that time, the 30,000 dollar Futurity at Lexington, Kentucky. He was also the patentee of the racing toe weight for trotters, that yielded him high returns. Macey's home on Rose Hill is an excellent example of the Queen Anne style. It is a decoratively rich structure with a conically-roofed turret, a gabled, projecting pavilion, and interesting window openings of varied sizes.
Another Rose Hill resident was Joseph C. S. Blackburn, a native of Versailles, who achieved national political prominence during the late 1800s. His entry into politics occurred in 1871 with his election to the Kentucky General Assembly. At age thirty-six, Blackburn was elected to Congress and served later as state senator from 1885 to 1897, and again 1901 to 1907. Perhaps the peak of Blackburn's political career came in 1896, when he received forty-one votes toward the nomination of the presidency at the Democratic National Convention. His house at the edge of Rose Hill is a highly visible structure within the district. Eclectic in design, the major elements are suggestive of Queen Anne, while the fanned and Palladian windows are reminiscent of Colonial Revival styles.
Of particular note is the house at 215 Rose Hill, which belonged to Dr, L. L. Ferguson in 1877. Constructed during the middle of the 19th century, this Victorian-Gothic cottage is one of few unaltered buildings in the district. Although diminutive in size compared to the other structures in Rose Hill, the overall design and craftsmanship of the Ferguson house are outstanding. The house is constructed of frame vertical boarding with a central, bracketed gable. A well-designed Ionic portico graces the facade.
† Adapted from: Jayne Renderson, Historian, Kentucky Heritage Commission, 1980, (Steve Gordon amemdment, 1982), Rose Hill Historic District, nomination document, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Rose Hill Avenue