Home & Garden

Beautiful Botherum

Step inside a historic Greek Revival cottage in Lexington, Kentucky

photo: Caroline Allison

You may recognize the garden above as Jon Carloftis’s from our Great Southern Spaces feature in the October/November issue. Since 2012, Carloftis has been restoring the gardens of this Lexington, Kentucky, home to their former glory. But what you didn’t see what the homes recently renovated interior.

The historic Greek Revival cottage known as Botherum, was originally built in 1851 by Larry McMurtry—one of Kentucky’s most prolific architects—for Madison C. Johnson, a prominent attorney and confidant of Abraham Lincoln. Over the years the home had fallen into disrepair and even came with its own raccoon residents.

Carloftis had everything in the home restored to its original layout. Crews spent more than fifteen months repairing leaks and fixing the plaster walls. “There were four hundred cracks in the drawing room alone,” Carloftis says. The high gloss on the wood floors—made of ash, poplar, and heart of pine in the dining room—was stripped off to allow the character and age of the floors to show through.

When it came to the home’s decor, Carloftis kept the palette clean and the mood lighthearted with his eclectic collection of antiques and curios. Says Carloftis: “We wanted to restore the home to its original glory, but we didn’t want it to feel like a museum.”

photo: Caroline Allison

In Botherum’s library, Carloftis placed a few stuffed mallards on the mantle —”I grew up with taxidermy and love it”— and above it, an antique mirror that is on “permanent loan” from his friend George Gatewood of Longwood Antique Woods. The ornate, brass chandelier is believed to be original to the home.

photo: Caroline Allison

An antique Kentucky percussion rifle and a piece of Bybee pottery decorate Carloftis’s kitchen hearth. The bees’ nests were found on Carloftis’s mother’s property just outside of Lexington. Carloftis first discovered the portrait of Abraham Lincoln at the Lexington Antique & Garden show before Botherum was in his sights. After purchasing the property and learning of the original owner, Madison C. Riley’s friendship with Lincoln, he knew he had to have it.

photo: Caroline Allison

Carloftis found the antique copper lantern that hangs in the kitchen’s breakfast nook in Fayetteville, Arkansas. On the wall to the left is a metal sign that reads “Visit Botherum,” a relic of the days when Botherum was open to the public, found underneath the house by the man hired to clear out the raccoons.

photo: Caroline Allison

A French wine tasting table sits next to Carloftis’s dog Lily’s bed, which Carloftis made using antique rug remnants.

photo: Caroline Allison

Lily looking out onto the formal garden.


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