Richard and Pamela Riley purchased the home in May of 2015. They are honored to be the first owners outside the family and are proud to share its history with their guests. Although no famous personage was born or resided in the house, it is a notable fact that the house was continuously owned and occupied by the descendants of an Irishman, Oliver Brown, for 200+ years – many of whom are buried in the family cemetery nearby.
The main house was built in 1810 by Oliver Brown and is an excellent example of early 1800’s Kentucky Vernacular architecture with stone pilasters and a dog trot. Mr. Brown, a stone mason, had lived and worked in Frankfort, Kentucky where he was in charge of the masonry for the rebuilding of the second Kentucky statehouse. In partial payment for his work in Frankfort, he received 300 acres just outside the town of Versailles (pronounced ver-SALES). Brown built his family home with a front wall in the handsome Flemish bond typical of the era. As usual, side and back walls are common bond. The entrance to the property is marked by a stone wall and the circular driveway leads back to a stone porch with bush-hammered and chiseled porch pillars (thought to be stone from the original farmstead). The farmstead flourished as did the family’s prominence in the community and in the horse industry. In 1960, the family owned a beautiful thoroughbred named Ballyache who placed second in the Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness that year.
In 1957, a descendant of Oliver Brown commissioned a cousin, Lexington architect Robert
McMeekin, to design and build a two-story wing at the left of the 1810 house. In the
original front rooms, McMeekin installed crown moldings and wainscoting. He replaced the
hall’s original steep corner staircase with an open flight, added new modern bathrooms and
he refinished the Heart Pine floors in the original section of the house and used Ash in the
new addition. In keeping with the house’s history and original renovations, Pamela and
Richard decided to keep and update the beautiful, large, mid-century modern bathrooms
with all their 1950’s splendor.
The house sits on 3.5 lush, park-like acres and is surrounded by old white oak, hard maple,
sycamore, dogwood, linden and magnolia trees, as well as numerous boxwoods. Also on
the grounds is a brick patio on the backside of the house, connecting the patio to the dog
trot providing a delightful escape for guests to enjoy breakfast and/or read and relax.
Moving forward …
Pamela & Richard have decided to call their new Kentucky Bed and Breakfast, Charred Oaks Inn in honor of a very subtle, yet crucial part of the process in making America’s one and only alcoholic drink: bourbon! Although largely unfounded, legend credits a Baptist minister, Elijah Craig, with inventing the spirit in Bourbon County in the late 1870’s, when present-day Kentucky was still part of Virginia. Given that France had helped the United States win the Revolutionary War, the Virginia legislature showed its appreciation by bestowing well-known French names on locations as they were settled in Kentucky. Towns such as Versailles (pronounced ver-SALES) and Paris.
“One of the legal requirements for bourbon is that it start with a mash consisting of at least 51 percent corn. Also integral to the mix is good water. Kentucky springs provide water exceptionally rich in limestone which facilitates good fermentation, not to mention strong bones in its renowned thoroughbreds. The result is a very strong liquor that often gets a splash of water before going into charred white oak barrels to age. This step is the most crucial in the production of bourbon, because the whiskey seeps into the barrel walls as they expand in the hot summer months and leeches back out during cooler weather as the wood contracts. Predominant flavors in the bourbon whiskey can be directly attributed to the storage in the charred oak barrels. Tastes such as those of the oak itself, the vanilla produced by the heated wood, and the sweet notes derived from caramelized wood sugars all lend bourbon its one-of-a-kind character and subtlety. After at least two years in the barrel, the aged whiskey can be labeled as bourbon.” *
So combined with the long history of the house, the property’s numerous and beautiful white oak trees, Pamela’s fascination with food and cooking, and the importance of the charred oak in the bourbon making process, they have named their new home Charred Oaks.
*Splash of Bourbon Kentucky’s Spirit – A Cookbook by David Domine