The Mansion Museum
The Mansion Museum is one of the oldest Greek revival homes built in Kentucky. The original part of the house was built in 1813 by Felix Matheny, a potter. The original structure, now the ell, consisted of a three-bayed, two-storied section with a one-story kitchen. Major James Taylor purchased the house from Mr. Matheny in November 1830, and completed construction of the front portion of the home in November 1836. Major Taylor, a prominent Harrodsburg attorney, was the grandson of Captain Samuel Taylor, one of the first trustees of Harrodsburg and a representative to the Kentucky Constitutional Convention in 1772.
A Tribute to the Confederacy and the Union
Since Kentucky’s young men served in both the Union and Confederate Armies during the Civil War, each side is honored with a room in the Mansion Museum. The bust of Lincoln in the Union Room was made from life by Leonard Wells Volk in the spring of 1860 before Mr. Lincoln began to wear a beard. There is a copy of the gun which killed Lincoln. The derringer was one of thousands of such models made by the Derringer Company of Philadelphia. There also is a copy of the marriage license of Lincoln’s parents, Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, and a life size painting of Kentucky-born Lincoln which was painted by Clifton J. Long of Lexington and New York in 1931.
Immediately across from the Union Room is the Confederate Room. There are many exhibits on display in this room of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and Beriah McGoffin who was governor of Kentucky at the outbreak of the Civil War and who was a resident of Harrodsburg. A painting of Robert E. Lee painted by Ercole Cartotto hangs above a mantle of sunburst design. On the hearth is a cannonball that weights 23 ½ pounds and was made for Andrew Jackson’s battle of New Orleans. The majority of these cannonballs were cast in the Red River from furnaces in Kentucky. Along with the cannonball is a Whitworth bullet.
An Exhibition of History
The Mansion Museum dining room was the dining room for the Taylor family. One of the items of interest is the sugar chest. Sugar was shipped in hard, cone-shaped loaves wrapped in colored paper. It was an extremely valuable item and usually locked up in a sugar chest. It was pulverized for usage. The mistress of the house normally was in charge of the sugar chest. The sugar chest belonged to Mark and Elizabeth McGohon who came from Pennsylvania across the mountains and down the Ohio River and Kentucky River to Fort Harrod. Additional exhibits of interest in the dining room include the print “Looking Out” by Currier and Ives, and a fine collection of Havilland, Spode and English china. Also on display is the coin silver collection from the McGohon family which they also brought from Pennsylvania to Fort Harrod.
Displayed in the music room upstairs is a barrel organ made by Astor of Cornhill, London. The cabinet which encloses this pipe organ is of Sheraton type, mahogany wood inlaid. There are many other old beautiful instruments on display in this room.
The music room also has two hair wreaths made from human hair on display, antique quilts and clothing from the pre-Civil War era.
One of the most outstanding gun collections in the country is on display in the museum. The 1750-1800 Flintlock pistol is one of the 144 firearms that the museum owns which is part of the famous McIntosh collection. This particular weapon has the outstanding feature of a heavily engraved brass trigger guard and buttstock.