Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Louisville’s Conrad-Caldwell House

In the older part of Louisville, Kentucky is a neighborhood that hosts the largest number of Victorian style homes in America. The charm of this neighborhood is reflected at its best in an area known as St. James Court. 

Amidst the court’s fountains and grassy boulevards is one house on a corner that stands out as the grandest of the grand. This massive mansion was built in the 1890s designed by local architect Arthur Loomis.

Theophilus Conrad a transplanted Frenchman made his fortune from tanning hides, he invested $35,000 in this his “castle” or what some called his "folly"and had it built in the most affluent area of Louisville. 

He had the outside of his home adorned with gargoyles, floral swags and massive arches. Inside, he arranged his home to be adorned with beautiful stained glass, intricate carved wood and the fleur-de-lis, the stylized iris that is a symbol of Louisville.

The mansion's most opulent room is the the parlor. It is adorned in speckled amber of birds-eye maple. The library is trimmed in beautiful red cherry. The distinct parquet floors are slightly different in each room showing Loomis' love of detail. 

When Conrad died in 1905 the William Caldwell family purchased the mansion. Mr. Caldwell was a successful millwright and mechanical engineer. Mrs. Caldwell lovingly redecorated the home. The couple lived there for 35 years-- the rest of their lives. 

In 1947 the house was converted into a Presbyterian nursing home and remained so for 40 years. Since 1987, the Conrad-Caldwell mansion has been run as a House Museum.

Tour guides that work at the Conrad-Caldwell home are very familiar with the  Caldwells, for they haunt the home. The guides state that they seem to appear when they feel it is necessary to protect the home they loved. 

Mr. Caldwell appears specifically when visitors on these tours wander off or go exploring on their own. At these times he is very displeased for he doesn’t like people snooping around his home.

One female visitor in the 1990s slipped away from her group and poked her head in a third-floor room that was closed for renovations. Within minutes the rest of the group heard her screams as she ran down the stairway. 

She then refused to go back up to the third floor. When asked what had upset her she replied, “a mean little man from the another era shook his finger at me in reproach.” She went on to state she knew he must be a ghost for she saw right through him to the wood paneling on the far side of the room.

When the Caldwell’s moved into the mansion Mrs. Caldwell designed a billiards room for her husband. It still has the fine cabinets she had built to hold his cue sticks and billiard balls. 

Several visitors to the museum that have wandered off tours have reported seeing a short man manifest in the billiards room. One tourist in 1995 pointed out the portrait of Mr. Caldwell and stated that was the man that startled him in this room.

Newlyweds that held their reception at the mansion also saw Mr. Caldwell’s ghost. As they walked down the front walkway they turned and saw an odd man wearing an old-fashioned tweed suit standing on the third-floor balcony and smoking a cigar. When they quizzed relatives to who he was, he just disappeared.

The house was then searched but no one was found. When they entered the billiards room that is attached to this balcony a faint scent of cigar smoke lingered in the room. 

People who know the history of the house say this sighting was logical for this balcony was used for smoking during the Caldwell’s time and the billiards room was by far his favorite room when he lived there. Most feel that it is he who haunts the house because he died in the home.

Mrs. Caldwell also died in the home. She was ill for the last two years of her life and was confined to her two-story bedroom. 

There have been many incidents reported that indicate she still haunts the mansion so I will just share a few here. One former director of the museum late one afternoon encountered a mist like form that she felt must be Mrs. Caldwell.

She was turning out the lights in preparation to leave when she walked down the grand staircase. As she reached the grandfather clock she spotted this mist just hanging in the air. Gathering her courage she passed it and then she turned back to reassure it that everything was okay at which point the mist disappeared. This director headed back up the stairs only to feel a very cold spot where the form had been.

A former housekeeper had another encounter with Mrs. Caldwell's ghost. She was cleaning the stairs at the front of the house as a storm approached. She was not aware it was raining until she heard a few raindrops hitting the windows. As it turned into a torrential rain she heard a frantic female voice from the third floor call “ the windows are open.” 

She went upstairs to discover that several windows were open. It was at this point she remembered that she was the only one in the house. She felt that since Mrs. Caldwell is known to look after the house that the voice she heard was hers.

A member of another wedding party that held their reception at the mansion also encountered what many feel was Mrs. Caldwell. The groom’s aunt was helping several other people decorate the stairs with flowers and ribbons when she saw an old-fashioned silver spoon floating in front of her. She watched amazed as this spoon then floated over to the Butler’s Pantry and fell to the floor. She went across and picked it up.

The safe’s door that Mrs. Caldwell kept all her best silver in was wide open. The woman could have sworn this door was closed when she last was in this small room. Seeing similar silver to the spoon inside the safe she placed it with the rest and closed the door. Afterwards she was frustrated because her relatives did not believe her. 

But after this incident the staff felt that Mrs. Caldwell wanted to alert someone that her silver was unsecured.

1 comment:

Sharon Miner said...

For our 43rd anniversary, we traveled from Tampa to Louisville and had a car service show us historic local sites. I'm ghost sensitive and felt the spirit of a short man with a hat, smoking. When I told my driver, he then told me the house was known to be haunted! After reading the stories, it's nice to know the name of the man I met!