Once abandoned and neglected, the historic Holt House in Breckinridge County now is 99% restored, in time for its 13th annual public celebration.
The mansion off Ky. 144 near Stephensport seems isolated today but it was along a major stagecoach route when built in the 19th century for Judge Joseph Holt, who was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as the nation’s first judge advocate general.
The Friends of the Holt Home organization and Breckinridge Fiscal Court invite the public to the Holt Home Community Day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 25. They are anxious to tell the story of the restoration that “has turned a decaying piece of its heritage into a community treasure,” according to Susan Dyer, a local author and a force behind saving the structure.
Lincoln chose Holt to establish the military’s legal corps during the Civil War. He rose to national prominence after Lincoln’s death by serving as the prosecuting judge of the Lincoln Conspiracy Trial.
Holt developed the modern-day JAG Corps, and recently, the 40th Judge Advocate General, Charles D. Pede, from the Pentagon visited Holt’s historical home stating the Holt Home was an important part of the regiment’s history.
The keynote speaker at this year’s event will be Jim Weise of Elizabethtown, retired lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army JAG Corps who later served in a civilian capacity as the chief of administrative law for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox.
Visitors will be able to view the fully restored first two floors, including both the west and east wing foyers and staircases, along with new reproduction chandeliers and several reproduction oriental rugs from the Kentucky Colonels Good Works Program.
In addition to the guided tours, events include a silent auction, re-enactors, a firing of the 14th Kentucky Light Artillery, a vintage baseball game and a wreath-laying ceremony at Holt’s monument, patriotic music, patriotic and period music from the Kentucky Home Guard Band, Jubal’s Academy ensemble, Guilderoy Byrne Band, Berea Festival Dancers and local performers.
Guests also will be entertained by a new two-act Civil War play written by Ed Ford called “The Final Curtain.” Actors performing as historic figures are Larry Elliott, Kelly Easton, Col. Lance Turlington, Vanna Holt and Emma Watkins.
The latest book about the mansion’s restoration, “Joseph Holt Mansion: Saving and Restoring the Home of Lincoln’s Judge Advocate General,” by Dyer will be available.
The Friends of the Holt Home will be accepting donations to go toward the continued restoration and upkeep and offering the yearly community day event free to the public.
The Holt Home’s address is 6205 KY Highway 144, Hardinsburg, and its approximately two miles off U.S. 60 between Hardinsburg and Cloverport. More information is available at jholt-houseky.org or Save the Judge Joseph Holt Home on Facebook.