A few weeks ago I did a couple of posts about Spindletop Hall, the former mansion of oil heiress Pansy Yount (here, here, here and here). When the University of Kentucky bought the property in the 1960s, it converted the mansion into a club house. Most of the furniture, especially from the bedrooms, was no longer needed when the house was re-purposed. Some pieces were put into storage and others were removed from the house for use at other university properties.
The bedroom furniture that was designed for Pansy’s suite of rooms (sitting room, bedroom, dressing room and bathroom),was moved to Maxwell Place on UK’s campus, the home of the president of the university. In June of 2011, then President and Mrs. Lee Todd graciously allowed BGT deTours to tour both the public and private rooms of the house, including the bedroom that now boasts Pansy’s bedroom furniture.
Pansy’s suite of rooms was decorated in the French style of Louis XV and XVI. It featured beautifully detailed murals (many of which included the faces of Pansy and her daughter) hand-painted by an Italian artist who lived on-site during construction. The furniture meant for those rooms was hand-painted by the same artist.
Viewing images of the room and the furniture designed for it side by side makes it easy to imagine how luxurious and richly-detailed the suite was when Pansy lived at Spindletop. The overall effect is delicate, feminine, sophisticated and elegant.
Currently, the CEO of Spindletop is trying to collect pieces that were designed for the house so that they can be restored to the mansion. While the bed is probably a no-go for the club, it would be wonderful to see the vanity or chaise back in Pansy’s suite.
For more information about the history, architecture and interior design Spindletop Hall, check out its National Register of Historic Places nomination.
Yesterday, BGT deTours celebrated Halloween and Fire Safety month by touring the Old Episcopal Burying Ground and Lexington’s historic Fire Station #1. Check back next week for posts about these two Lexington treasures!
The Saddlebred horses bred and trained at Spindletop Hall were award-winning. Rather than letting her trophies grow dusty on a shelf or stored away in the attic, Pansy Yount had them repurposed. The chandeliers that hung in her daughter Mildred’s sitting room and bedroom were made from large sterling silver trophies won by Pansy’s horses. They were damaged in a fire that gutted Mildred’s suite in the 1970s, but were carefully refurbished.
This is a continuation of deTour: Spindletop Hall. If you have checked out Part I, find it here!
Over the Top Interiors
In addition to the innovative use of materials and technology, Spindletop featured unique and opulent interiors. Each room was decorated with authentic and reproduction elements to reflect a different historical period. This interesting choice of interior design may have been inspired by the DuPont estate in Delaware, Winterthur.
Most of Spindletop’s original furniture was removed to accommodate the functions of the club (and some of it was destroyed in a fire in the 1970s). According to Marvel, they are slowly re-accumulating original pieces with the hope of returning them to their proper place. Except for the original custom hand-woven wall to wall rugs that were located in each room, and the suite that was gutted by fire, most of the house’s original interior details like hand molded plaster ceilings, murals, wood work, etc. are intact today. Deferred maintenance has caused water damage to moldings and paneling in some rooms, but management is working to fix these problems and repair any damage.
The grand entrance hall brought the Georgian Revival exterior inside. It features a mantel and molded ceiling in the Georgian style. A hand-woven carpet mimicked the pattern of the ceiling. Fret-work in the ceiling and walls of the ovular room were designed to carry the sound of the Kimball organ.
The library was decorated in the Tudor style and included a stone mantel salvaged from an English estate, a hammer-beam ceiling, Gothic oak paneling and Gothic arched windows and doors. The porter-cochere off the library was oriented to the setting sun. Every evening, the sun sets behind an ornate wrought iron window cut into the wall of the porter-cochere and through the library’s opened double doors. Scenes from the Disney film Secretariat were filmed in this room.
The 30×60 foot living room (the largest in Kentucky when constructed!) is Elizabethan. The walls are hand carved oak panels. The paneling is incomplete due to the untimely death of artisan. A Flemish Renaissance tapestry from the 16th century hides the missing panels. The ceiling was reproduced from an Elizabethan room in an English country house. The imported salvaged mantel is carved with the motto, “East, West, Home is Best.”
The French Powder Room had a marquetry floor, a French mirror and French furnishings. The draperies were Louis XV silk brocade and were made in Lyon. Paintings of French courtesans once decorated the walls.
The William and Mary Music Room has burled mahogany (or according to recent controversy, burled walnut) paneling and plaster moldings. The original draperies were a William and Mary design. The ceiling is decorated with plaster molding with a musical motif including harps. A climate controlled niche once stored a world-renowned collection of Stradivarius violins collected by Frank Yount for Mildred. The organ is located in the music room, as well as the Welte, which is housed within a hand-painted lacquer Chinoiserie cabinet.
The dining room is painted Adam green with gold leaf outlining the panels. The ceiling has a Georgian patter of scrolls and flowers. The motif was once mimicked by the design of the carpet. Currently, the oak floors are exposed. The circa 1770 mantel was imported from England. The dining room has a niche for the display of china and two automated swinging doors (with an electric eye! It and the doors still work! and, ahem, are quite startling if you don’t realize they are there…), which was another state-of-the art technology at Spindletop.
Many of the rooms feature murals painted by a resident artist (and rumored lover of Pansy) from Italy. Many of the paintings and custom textiles incorporate the image or initials of Pansy, Mildred, or Spindletop Hall.
The basement was used for casual entertainment as well as utilitarian purposes. It included the Saddlebred Lounge, a horse themed den. All of the original furnishings are still in the lounge. Currently, the art displayed was painted by Elizabeth Shatner, William Shatner’s wife. Before the installation of the elevator, a gentleman’s lounge with humidor, shoe shine, valet, etc was adjacent to the lounge. The New Orleans Ballroom, also off the lounge featured an octagonal wooden floor designed to keep you dancing without the slightest fatigue all night long. A butcher shop and climate controlled fur storage room were also in the basement.
And if that wasn’t enough- the grounds!
Despite the personal touches on textiles and in murals the house, the hobbies and personality of Mrs. Yount were most evident in the design of the grounds. She was an avid animal lover (a grooming room was located in the basement, along with accommodations for guests’ pets!), gardener and indulgent mother. The auxiliary buildings dotting the property reflect her interests. She was mocked for locating her private stable mere yards from the main house, but wanted them nearby for her daughter. Her kennels, which were also located near the main house, sported fashionable pagoda roofs and bordered her Japanese inspired garden. She also had several aviaries constructed near the kennels. She constructed a pool with a bath house and tennis courts.
But the most unusual landscape element for a mansion of its size and opulence is the eight feet tall chain link fence that surrounds the entire property. When Mr. Yount died, Mildred inherited half of her father’s estate making her one of the wealthiest children in the United States. Terrified of a kidnapping attempt (possibly because the Lindbergh kidnapping in 1932 was still fresh in her mind), Mrs. Yount had the security fence installed around the property.
Thank you to the BGT and to Mr. Marvel for such a thorough and wonderful tour! By the oohs and aahs from the crowd that gathered for the evening, I know they enjoyed this deTour as much as I did!