My Old Kentucky Home
THE INN AT WOODHAVEN HAS LONG ENJOYED A PLACE AT THE CENTER OF LOUISVILLE’S CHARMING SOUTHERN CULTURE.
The Inn at Woodhaven has long enjoyed a place at the center of Louisville’s charming Southern culture.
In the previous issue, we explored the origins of Marsha Burton’s charming Inn at Woodhaven—
from finding and restoring the original 1853 main house, to enhancing the innate Victorian charm through add-ons and carefully curated furnishings. The story of the Inn continues today, of course, and Marsha often reminisces about the various ways she and the Inn have both grown and changed throughout the years. “Hard to believe, but back when I started there was no Internet, so we didn’t have a website until 1996,” she says. “I used to pay $300 a month for an ad in the telephone book—and now I haven’t used a telephone book in years!”
COMING UP ROSES
The most notable change to the Inn’s landscape is a literal one: Rose Cottage, which was built in 1998. Marsha and her architect, Charlie Williams, used architectural details from the Inn’s main house and carriage house—including drip barge board from the carriage house and the main house’s handrail trim. The elegant cupola was inspired by the carriage house as well. “We had to go through many zoning hearings…and even an archaeological dig before we received final approval to build,” she says. “The professor assigned to the dig—which was to check for any evidence of Native American burial grounds— even looked like Indiana Jones.”
Rose Cottage’s distinctive cupola drew its inspiration from the existing one on the Carriage House.
The duo decided on an octagon shape for the cottage, both because it fit the space well and also because it comes from a Victorian design. The structure features striking 25-foot-high ceilings, a fireplace sitting area and loft reading area, a double whirlpool spa tub and even a king-sized bed. “Most people think it’s an original building that’s been here since 1853 instead of 1998,” Marsha says. “It’s very popular with everyone—especially for celebrating special occasions.”
Marsha likes to leave the fireplace going year-round for ambience. She highly recommends the private wraparound porch for summer— which she makes sure to liven up with a new coat of paint each year. She also keeps things fresh for both new and repeat visitors with the consistent introduction of new American Gothic furnishings and other accents that find a home in the cottage. All of this is in addition to the coffee and tea, books and magazines, cookies and candies and other thoughtful amenities Marsha keeps on hand to make every guest feel at home.
Marsha loves the traditions the Inn has made possible, and looks forward to whatever the future brings.
While the Inn draws visitors on its own merit, its Louisville location lends itself to a famed yearly pilgrimage: the Kentucky Derby. Guests for the event come from all over the U.S. and abroad—an international affair that lands itself on many a socialite’s bucket list. Much more than just a race on a May Saturday, the Derby consists of two full weeks of special events. It kicks off with Thunder Over Louisville, the country’s largest fireworks show, with 700,000 people lining the river banks to see it.
The “race” theme also carries over into the ongoing festivities, with nearly every sort of race imaginable. Hoteliers race hotel beds, restaurant servers race with trays of wine, and The Belle of Louisville steamboat even races the Belle of Cincinnati. Marsha laughs as she recounts the traditional dropping of rubber ducks into the Ohio River for the benefit event known as the “Kenducky Derby.” In her opinion, the Derby wouldn’t be as great an affair without the various quirky events that surround it.
Louisvillians turn out in full force every April, devoting the month to getting their yards—and the entire city—ready for the year’s biggest event. “No one cares that frost can sometimes stick around until mid-may,” Marsha says. “We always have those annuals planted in time for race day.”
The Inn’s event guests—a group that has snatched up the space each Derby week for the last 15 years—traditionally arrive on Wednesday and leave on Sunday. And in addition to booking the city’s best accommodation, they also plan their style in advance, with 15 “fabulous” hat boxes always arriving at the Inn ahead of the festivities. Marsha loves the traditions the Inn has made possible, and looks forward to whatever the future brings. “The best compliment,” she says, “is that 75% of my guests are repeats, and some have been coming for the full 24 years I have been open.”
The most notable change to the Inn’s landscape is a literal one: Rose Cottage, which was built in 1998.
Above. The common room’s commanding staircase serves as an eye-catching way to lead guests to upper rooms. Some of Marsha’s beloved Gothic chairs, which she has acquired from sources both local and global, welcome guests in nearly every part of the...
Right. One of the many asides in the house, this vanity setup offers guests an extra bit of seclusion. Cheery stripes on a fun couch brighten an otherwise muted décor arrangement. opposite. Marsha created the derby room as a whimsical ode to the Derby....