Built for a Bride

In many cultures, it is expected that the newlywed couple will reside with their in-laws, at least until they are able to start a family and homestead of their own. Often, parents who had large land holdings would divide it into tracts for their grown children to build on and live close by through their lifetimes. One interesting “starter home” was the Sherley Mansion, which played a role in the weddings of two generations of prominent Jefferson County families and became a storied landmark.

Susannah Henning Hobbs was one of six children of Edward Dorsey Hobbs, Sr. (1810-1888). At age 21, Mr. Hobbs was the youngest man ever elected city surveyor, and he spent five years surveying Louisville’s streets and the riverfront and publishing maps of the area. He later founded the Louisville Savings Institution; was elected three times to the Kentucky General Assembly; became President and Director of the Louisville and Frankfort Railroad Company; and owned farmland in Middletown valued in 1860 at $80,000 (about $2.5 million in today’s dollars). During the Civil War, he was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to be special agent of the Treasury Department for northern Kentucky. Hobbs was also an ardent horticulturist and founded one of the country’s largest nurseries before the Civil War. He was responsible for the planting of hundreds of trees and shrubs in his community, then named Hobbs Station and now called Anchorage.

Susan Hobbs Sherley (1)

Susannah Henning Hobbs Sherley

Susannah Hobbs was engaged to be married to my third cousin three times removed, John Colmesneil Sherley, son of the wealthy steamboat captain Zachariah Madison Sherley. John was involved in the Sherley ship chandlery enterprises in Louisville and became a partner in an extensive tobacco warehouse.

It was only fitting that the young couple have a home reflecting their social status, so on the occasion of their 1865 marriage, Edward Hobbs gifted his daughter with land and a house. The property included 160 acres, named “Valley View,” and was accessed from Evergreen Road by Valley View Lane. The home, an Italianate structure, became known as “The Sherley Mansion,” which right away tells you something about its character.

John and Sue had two children: Nanine Tarascon Sherley and Edward Hobbs Sherley. In 1890, all of Anchorage anxiously awaited another Sherley wedding: that of Nanine to Dr. Hersey Goodwin Locke. Locke was born in Oldham County, Kentucky, on the plantation of his grandfather. At the close of the Civil War, the Lockes moved to Boston, where they were highly successful corn and grain merchants. Son Goodwin graduated from Harvard and became a neurologist.

The nuptial planning was extensive and even included a facelift for the Sherley Mansion, where the reception would be held. The house was converted to a high Victorian style of architecture and included a large wrap-around porch and tower.

The Louisville Courier-Journal of June 5, 1890, covered the happy occasion:

Society in the pleasant little suburb of Anchorage was most pleasantly agitated last evening by the culmination of an affair which has been on the tapis for some time, and for which extensive preparations had been made — the wedding of one of Kentucky’s daughters to a distinguished young physician of New York city. The event occurred at the beautiful little Methodist Memorial church at Anchorage at 8 p.m., and the principals were Dr. Hersey Goodwin Locke, of New York, and Miss Nanine Tarascon Sherley, of Anchorage.

Yesterday several wagon-loads of choice flowers and shrubs were sent out by the florists, with which the church and the home of the bride were handsomely decorated. The church altar was banked with shrubs, potted plants and cut flowers, while above hung a bow and arrow, trimmed with ribbons and flowers, and festoons of evergreens swung across the body of the edifice from front to rear.

The ceremony took place at 8 o’clock, and the entire community was present to attest the esteem in which the bride and her family are held. Miss Sherley is a daughter of Mr. John Sherley, a niece of Mr. Thomas H. Sherley, and a relative of the Hobbs family, who were pioneers in that region.

The ceremony was performed by Rev. Gross Alexander, of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, who came expressly to officiate. There were eight bridesmaids and eight groomsmen, beside the maid of honor and the best man. . . . The toilets were beautiful. The bride wore a Parisian gown of white satin, veiled with white embroidered gauze, and trimmed in white rosebuds. The veil was caught with a coronet of white roses.

The eight bridesmaids were dressed alike, in white, embroidered mull en train, round necked and short sleeved, with green sashes and green gloves. . . .

After the ceremony had been said at the church the assemblage repaired to the home of the bride’s father, where an elegant reception was held from 8 to 12 o’clock; and where the young people received the congratulations of a host of relatives and friends. At 12 o’clock they took the train for the East, purposing a somewhat extended bridal tour.

It appears that the Lockes divided their time between Kentucky and New York. Their son, John Sherley Locke, was born on October 30, 1893, in Louisville, and the Lockes were included in the New York Social Register which came out in February of 1894. But the couple soon was faced with tragedy when their son died of pneumonia on December 3, 1894, not long after his first birthday, and life took one of those unwelcome turns.

One can only speculate about what transpired in the next few years, but records show that in 1898 Dr. Locke was in practice in Syracuse, and in 1902 he married Mrs. Julia Williams Emory. I have found no evidence, or even society news report, about a divorce, but clearly Nanine and Goodwin Locke went their separate ways.

The Sherley Mansion was sold in 1900 to none other than Isaac W. Bernheim, the renowned Louisville distiller and philanthropist. Bernheim is known for his donation of land for the Bernheim Forest in Bullitt County, Kentucky. He constructed an access road to the home, Stonegate Road, and named the property “Homewood.” Bernheim hired the well known landscape firm Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts, to landscape the property and advise him on renovating the home. The iron gate entrance and stone pillars were added, as were the three-story southwest addition topped by the crenelated tower, the current front porch and the porte-cochere.

Bernheim sold the property in 1929 to Jefferson County Sheriff William O. Gray, who hired the architectural firm Nevin, Kolbrook & Morgan, to design an extensive interior and exterior renovation. Gray sold to Judge Alonzo Wood in 1937. In 1951 it was purchased by William G. Reynolds (Reynolds Metal Co.). Reynolds sold the  property in 1971 to his mother, who was near death.  She donated the property to St. Andrews Episcopal Church with a 5-year “life estate” for her granddaughter, Louise Reynolds Florman Belmont, William G. Reynolds’ daughter.  Louise was expected to maintain the property and pay the taxes. (At that time, any property owned by a church but not used for church purposes was subject to property taxes.) When Louise chose not to perform either of her two obligations, the church had no option but to ask her to leave and sell the property. In 1977 St. Andrews sold the Sherley Mansion to Woods Investment Co. who subdivided the property into the current seven lots.  William M. and Patricia M. Wetherton purchased the home and 5-1/2 acres in 1977, now with the address 2018 Homewood Drive. In 1983 the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

 

This is the “Sherley Mansion” (or Homewood) today:

john sherley house

Susannah Hobbs’ wedding present from her daddy still sits splendidly, in beautiful surroundings. But what of its early residents?

Sue and John were married for almost 47 years. After they sold the mansion in 1900, they lived with her brother and his wife on Evergreen Avenue in Anchorage. John died in 1912 and Sue passed away in 1917.

Dr. Goodwin Locke became a prominent physician and researcher in Syracuse, opening a “psychopathic hospital.” His first wife and son are not mentioned in his medical biographical sketches, nor were they in his 1922 obituary.

Nanine did not remarry and continued to go by “Nanine T. S. Locke” until she died in an Anchorage sanitarium from heart disease in 1930. Her death certificate states that she was “a widow,” indicating perhaps that she viewed her marriage to Dr. Locke as inviolable. Or she may have chosen to avoid the disparagement associated with divorce.

Interestingly, Edward Dorsey Hobbs, Susannah’s generous father, also donated land for the Hobbs Memorial Chapel in Anchorage. The church was completed in  1877 and was used for both Methodist and Episcopal services. It was damaged by fire and razed in 1957, but the original iron gates and Gothic vestibule remain. The site is today used as a romantic wedding venue by many a Kentucky bride.

Hobbs Memorial Chapel

 

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