Brick by Brick: Beauty & History in Central Kentucky

Brick construction lends gravitas and permanence to the Bluegrass’s historic homes

The Greek Revival façade of the Elkton Farm’s John Suggett House expanded an earlier stone structure

We’re known for our representation of buyers & sellers of historic homes and estates. In particular, we’re praised for the historic and cultural research we conduct, adding richness to the compelling narrative we craft for each home we sell.

Brick styles are just one of many architectural “clues” we consider, offering insight into the history and use of a residence. Flemish & English bond were favored by early Bluegrass gentry. These more intricate styles required greater skilled craftsmanship and attention to detail than “running” or “stretcher” patterns.

Brick for building projects was often conducted on site or nearby. Clay was sourced from local deposits and riverbanks, before weathering, mixing, molding, and drying the bricks. Lastly, bricks were fired in wood-fired kilns to temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees before cooling for use.

Because of their handmade nature, the quality, shape, and color of brick could vary significantly. Quality, too, could vary. In fact, many people are surprised to learn Henry Clay’s original “Ashland” was painted. As was common in that time, a protective coating of paint was sometimes necessary to preserve buildings. Unfortunately, not even its protective coat could help the original Ashland. The residence grew increasingly unstable, deteriorating until son James razed it to build the structure now standing.

By 1870, brick making was becoming industrialized, with machines doing the work formerly done by craftsmen. This meant few buildings needed protective coatings of paint. Machine brickmaking went from human to animal to steam-powered and beyond in just a few decades.

Before the commercialization of brickmaking, reusing brick was common as in the building found at Calvary Cemetery, believed to be from an earlier Todd family home. The c. 2003 Pettit Place residence we sold was crafted from carefully-collected historic brick, lending gravitas to its façade.

Brick’s beauty has graced the Bluegrass since its earliest days. We have its permanence to thank for the preservation of so many of the historic residences we sell today.

Are you looking for a historic home or estate in Central Kentucky? Let’s talk.

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