Tours at Oxmoor Farm
Oxmoor Farm offers guided tours of the house and grounds by reservation only. Tours can be scheduled during the week or on select Saturdays. *Due to road construction no tours will be conducted in May 2021.
Admission prices are as follows: Adults – $8, Senior Citizens – $6, Children (ages 6-14) – $5 and Children (ages 5 and under) – Free.
Group rates are available for groups of more than 15 people.
All tours can be adjusted to focus on group’s interest, ranging from the Colonial Period, to the Civil War, to the Gilded Era. To book a guided house tour, email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the form below.
*Due to COVID-19, tour groups will be limited in size. All visitors will be required to wear a facial covering while touring indoors and maintain appropriate social distancing.
Nestled 8 miles outside Louisville, Oxmoor is a historical gem giving us a glimpse into Kentucky’s past. Explore 230 years of history at Oxmoor Farm. Home to 5 generations of the Bullitt family. The family was influential in the formation of Kentucky and their house, original section built in 1791 to the first addition in 1829 and the 2 additions in the early 1900s, is a literal testament to the state’s history from colonial times through the 20th century. Buffeted by the beautiful gardens that were designed in 1911 and the tree-lined avenue, as well as the charming outbuildings add to Oxmoor’s beauty and its historical uniqueness. Come and hear the stories that Oxmoor has to tell of early pioneer days and the Native Americans, the history of hemp cultivation in Kentucky, the antebellum years and the enslaved community that lived and worked here, through the gilded age and present day. Come see one of the few historic sites in the country where you can walk through 3 centuries of American history and explore the 13 original outbuildings including a smokehouse, springhouse, ice house, hemp barn, and former slave cabins. The historic house is furnished with original pieces that belonged to the Bullitt family. The gardens were designed in 1911 by Marian Coffin, one of the first female landscape architects in the country. All house tours are guide-led and last approximately one hour. Due to the historic nature of the house it is not fully handicap accessible. While the tour is of the first floor of the house and there are a few stairs along the tour. You can leisurely explore the grounds on your own before or after your tour.
Oxmoor sits in the middle of the last working farm in Jefferson County. Farming has always been an integral part to the history of Oxmoor. When Alexander Scott Bullitt purchased the land he immediately begin clearing it in order to cultivate a crop. This grounds tour will focus on the history of farming in Kentucky with particular attention given to the era when Hemp was the main crop grown in the Bluegrass State. Learn about the history of Hemp cultivation in this area and how it flourished particularly well along Beargrass Creek. Take a peak inside the brick hemp barn, which is one of 13 original outbuildings onsite at Oxmoor. Learn about the inner workings of Oxmoor Farm from the crops cultivated over the years to the livestock that was raised on the farm. This tour will also tell the stories of the women and men who worked the land beginning with the enslaved African Americans who lived at Oxmoor and the tenant farmers who took up residence after the Civil War through the 1970s. Please wear appropriate footwear as this tour is a walking tour with moderate levels of walking.
Architecture / Antique / Fine Art
Oxmoor began as a one and half story colonial style clapboard farmhouse that was constructed in 1791. While this type of construction was typical for Virginia, there are not many examples of this architecture still standing in the Louisville area. Corner fireplaces, stencil painted plaster, and a beautifully carved back staircase are features of the original portion of the house. The house was enlarged in 1829 with a federal-style addition complete with a recessed portico inspired by other local historic homes, Farmington and Ridgeway. The addition was constructed out of brick and added 3 rooms, an entry way, dining room, and parlor. This addition now comprises the middle section of the house. In the early 20th century occupants William and Nora Bullitt added a second floor to this middle brick addition, as well as a kitchen wing and a grand library wing transforming the house from a southern plantation farmhouse to a Gilded-Age Era estate. Oxmoor is furnished with unique and priceless antiques and artwork that was purchased by the Bullitt family over the last 150 years. Chandeliers made from antique Sicilian Ox cart wheels, wall cupboard from an English manor house and sofas from the family of Winston Churchill, as well as artwork and furniture weave a story of Oxmoor’s transformation from colonial times to the modern era.
Come join us on a tour where you can literally walk through 3 centuries of American history and architecture all under one roof.
The Bullitt family immigrated from France to the American colonies in the late 1600s. By all accounts it was Jospeh Boulet who later anglicized his name to Bullitt. They were Huguenots and were escaping oppression in a Catholic France. Joseph’s great grandson Alexander Scott Bullitt moved to the frontier of Virginia, which Kentucky was a part of, in 1783. He purchased Oxmoor in 1787 and 5 generation of the Bullitt family has called Oxmoor home. The story of the Bullitt family is the story of Kentucky. Alexander co-wrote the constitution of the 15th state of Kentucky in 1792 and served as the commonwealth’s first lieutenant governor. His son William was a member of the 1849 state constitutional convention and succeeding generations have served as Solicitor General, Ambassador to the Soviet Union and France, as well as military officers. Other members of the family have been celebrated artists and writers. The story of the Bullitt family is the story of America from its independent spirit partnered with its stubborn reliance on slavery.
Kentucky was a neutral state during the Civil War but the Bullitts did not remain neutral. Just to the south of Oxmoor was the Speed Family farm Farmington. The Bullitts and the Speeds were first cousins and even though they were related by blood and lived as neighbors, they chose different sides in the Civil War conflict. The Speed family were good friends of President Abraham Lincoln, in fact Lincoln stayed at Farmington for 3 weeks twenty years prior to beginning our 16th president. The Bullitts of Oxmoor chose to fight with the southern states. This tour will explore the war years at Oxmoor. Learn about the Bullitt sons who fought with the Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, how the war years changed the landscape at Oxmoor, the fate of the slaves who once lived and worked at Oxmoor, and how the conflict affected the relationship between the Bullitt and Speed cousins. Civil war artifacts that belonged to the family will be on special display for this tour.
As you enter the grounds the 1/2 mile tree-lined avenue greets you. Trees and flowers has always been an integral part of the landscape at Oxmoor. What began with Alexander Scott Bullitt sending off for flower seeds from England in the late 1700s has now evolved into a formal gardens that was designed in 1911 by Marian Coffin, one of the first female landscape architects in the U.S. Ms. Coffin’s plan of a circle in square rose garden complete with circular brick walkways and arbors and gazebos, and an English border garden that trails off behind the house, are lovely features of Oxmoor. Included in the gardens is a pet cemetery which is the final resting place for the Bullitt family’s dogs and horses. The farm was the site of annual Steeplechase from 1940-2002. Learn about the history of the gardens and the way it has evolved over the last 230 years including the additions of fruit trees, vegetable garden, the pet cemetery, as well as the formal gardens. This tour will cover the tree-lined avenue, the front lawn, as well as the formal gardens just to the south of the main house. You’ll have time after the tour to meander through the gardens and our groundskeeper will be on hand to answer specific questions about the care of the gardens today. Please wear appropriate footwear as this tour is a walking tour.
Slavery At Oxmoor
Oxmoor was home to a large group of enslaved African Americans from its beginning in 1787 to the end of the Civil War in 1865. The highest number of documented slaves held at Oxmoor totaled 101 in 1816. The slaves were written about in Bullitt family letters thus giving us a one-sided glimpse at their lives. Slave births, weddings and deaths are all documented in the letters, as well as reports on their health and even their punishments for insolent behavior. While slavery is not a comfortable part of our history, the individual lives are important and part of our nation’s history. This tour will focus on the enslaved population and the documented family groups that lived at Oxmoor. Hope, Louisa, Eliza Julia, Sam, Sabra, Jack, Caroline, and Frank are just a few of the slaves whose stories you’ll learn on this tour. Oxmoor is a unique history site with original slave dwellings still standing, as well as a kitchen and overseer’s house. This tour will explore those buildings, as well as a tour through the main house and touch on the individual people and their lives and their interactions with Bullitt family.
The Women of Oxmoor
Women have a unique American experience which is mirrored in the history of Oxmoor. The women of Oxmoor, enslaved and free, were dynamic and strong women, who founded, farmed, managed, and maintained Oxmoor over its 230 year history. From the pioneer days of Priscilla Christian Bullitt to the antebellum years of Mildred Fry Bullitt to the Gilded Age era of Nora Iasigi Bullitt and the late 20th century presence of Kay Stammers Bullitt all aspects of women’s history will be touched on. What were the daily lives of these women like in their respective time periods. How did they dress, eat, socialize, and influence their worlds. Ranging from a pioneer housewife, an antebellum mistress and the enslaved women she oversaw, a sufragette, an artist, a world-renown tennis star – all aspects of women’s history will be explored.
Slave Life at Oxmoor Farm
- The first slave cabins on Oxmoor were log with either stone or brick chimneys, as these are the types of cabins that are mentioned in Alexander Scott Bullitt’s (1762-1816) papers. None of these structures survive at Oxmoor today. In fact, there are very few that survive nationwide due to their construction materials, etc.
- It is most likely that there were slave cabins dotted around the farm, some undoubtedly were closer to the fields and some were closer to the house and slaves typically slept where they worked.
- The cabins built in 1842 were brick, which 3 cabins of brick survive today. Letter dated 15 May 1842 from Mildred Bullitt states “We have workmen building our negro houses, which makes it somewhat inconvenient for me to have company.” (fl 143)
- The cabin built in 1858 was of stone and that one still survives today. Letter dated 25 June 1858 from Mildred Bullitt stated, “Stone masons are at work getting up rock for the new negro houses.” (fl 332)
- In a letter dated 2/9/1891 Thomas W. Bullitt mentioned that there were more cabins on the east side of the avenue than on the west.
- Susan Bullitt Dixon wrote in her recollection about growing up at Oxmoor that “the servants’ cabins were on a line with the spring on one side of the lawn, and with the bridge on the other. Whitewashed and with trees in front of them they presented somewhat the appearance of a little village.”
- Incidentally many slave laborers slept where they worked – in kitchens, laundries and stables and of course the master’s house. We are in the process of putting together a list of the names of slaves who lived and worked at Oxmoor.
- Oxmoor had a large slave population. At the time of Alexander Scott Bullitt’s death in 1816 his slaves numbered 101. Undoubtedly there were slave cabins built prior to his death to house his slaves. However, the first documentation of a slave cabin being built on Oxmoor is 1830. When William C. Bullitt added the brick addition to the front of the Oxmoor house he also constructed a “new negro house” and did some repair work on a slave house that was already on site. Additional slave cabins were built in 1842 and a stone slave cabin was built in 1858; these structures are the ones that survive today. The first slave cabins were most likely made of log or clapboard. Later cabins were built from brick and stone.
- After the Civil War the cabins were continued to be used as housing for the tenant farmers that moved onto the property. Most of the farmers were German and Irish immigrants, and some were former slaves. In the 20th century the Perkins family, an African-American family from Central Kentucky, moved to Louisville to work on the farm and they inhabited the large stone house and the “double” brick cabin just to the right of the stone cabin. Frank and George Perkins added the concrete additions to the back of those two structures in the 1950s to add an indoor bathroom and a kitchen. The last member of the Perkins family moved out of the stone cabin in 2015.
- Generally speaking – slave houses located close to the owner’s house were generally better constructed and thus lasted longer. This may account for why the ones still standing at Oxmoor were constructed out of brick and stone and why they have lasted well past the 20th century. The use of brick and stone was also an indication of an upscale plantation but also replaced wooden structures because of fire hazards. Most had wood shingle roofs or in the later antebellum years, roofs constructed of metal, again because of fire hazards. The presence of windows in the stone structure indicates the owner’s wealth as well.
Schedule a Tour
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- Kentucky Heritage Council
- The Filson Historical Society
- Kentucky Humanities Council, Inc.
- National Trust for Historic Preservation
- NouLou Chamber Players, Inc.
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- Stock Yards Bank and Trust
- The Food Literacy Project
- The Slave Dwelling Project
- The Reckoning Podcast