The Mary Todd-Lincoln House.

Definitely worth a visit: Apparently the first museum devoted to a first lady. I learned a lot about her during the visit and now have a lot more respect and sympathy for her than I did previously.

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Finding this place wasn’t difficult (with GPS helping), and once you’re in the right part of town the house its self is easy enough to spot, in fact there are signs everywhere of the “hi you’re here” variety — but I’ve got to warn you, that the signage that was supposed to direct visitors to it’s parking lot was horrible! There’s this narrow little alleyway that odds are you won’t spot, which is where you need to turn down off of the busy main street in order to get to the parking lot behind the house, and G-d help you! It really is NOT clearly marked, nor is the traffic pattern in front of the house set up to aid out-of-town visitors to make the turn safely.

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I enjoyed my visit here. A lot of historical research, time, effort, and money was invested in order to try to recreate the home as Lincoln might have known it when he visited here. According to our docent, a retired female lawyer, as a result of various historical flukes, historians have a pretty good idea of exactly what items were in the house, and if they weren’t successful in tracking down the specific items the Todds owned (although happily in many cases they were), then they were able to replace them with items sufficiently similar as to give visitors a fairly accurate sense of being in their home. Anytime the items were known to have been owned by the Todd or the Lincoln families, the docent would point them out, and she always made it clear when they were not. So for instance they knew Mary Todd had a preference for the work of a particular furniture designer, and they have some of his pieces but aren’t sure if they’re the exact ones own by Mary… etc. In the picture below for instance, the table she (in white sweater) is standing next to was the actual one from the home, as was the bible laying on it.

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I learned a lot of interesting things, such as the house (after the Todds had sold it) became the brothel where a soon to be famous madam, Belle Brezing, who many believe became the template for the Belle Watling character in ‘Gone with the Wind,’ got her ‘training’; and that after Lincoln’s death, Mary’s son, who didn’t recognized the symptoms of laudanum/morphine addiction (which she had been proscribed as a cure for migraines) had his mother declared insane, and tried to get control of her money.

The first time I read about this place was in a blog devoted to ‘things worth stopping to see while road-tripping with the kids down to Disney World.’ However, back in June of 2015, when I was initially making that trip south from Chicago to Orlando, I was still one month shy of the end of the proscribed (by Jewish law) 11 months of mourning for my father, and as such couldn’t do anything ‘fun.’ However, I remembered it now, almost a year later, and since I discovered it was effectively on my path from my friends home in Georgia, to visiting another friend currently doing time in Ohio, I made a point of stopping to see it (in fact, all other things I did while in Lexington were peripheral to this stop).

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The American Saddlebred Museum

This is one of my favorite sorts of museums, folks who are entirely geeking out about something they love…. in this case, a specific breed of horse called the American Saddlebred horse, which used to be called “Kentucky Saddler.”

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I found this museum on a list of ‘unusual’ things to visit in Lexington, KY. I had just driven up from the Pigeon Forge, TN (Dollywood) and was hoping to arrive in time to see Mary Todd’s Home, but that had closed at 3pm and I arrived at around 3:30pm. So, I decided to spend the night and to do it the next day. It is located on the grounds of the Kentucky State Horse Farm Park and apparently is usually a combined ticket to the race track, meet and greet with the horses, pony rides, etc., but I wasn’t here for those things…I was here for the geek museum.

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The area is broken into two rooms — the first is a massive collection of personal momentous from trainers including paintings and sculptures they had commissioned of themselves and their favorite horses,

… as well as personal mementoes, like awards they’d won, or favorite saddles, riding gear, etc.

The 2nd is a museum dedicated to history of the breed, the uses of the horses, and some history of the people who worked with them. Walking around the space it is clear from walking around here that serious money had been spent.

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There are two full documentaries (which I have a feeling they had specially made), one about the horses the museum honors and another about the forgotten history of black trainers who didn’t receive any recognition before the 1970’s. According to the film the color barrier didn’t just apply to people; one of the stories the film told was about a horse that wasn’t winning awards because of her odd color (silver), so her trainer — who was a person of color himself, dyed her brown instead of silver and changed her name to painted lady, and she began winning.

The movie that was just about the horses, their history, and why these people love them, includes an interview with the actor William Shatner (of Star Trek fame, again, GEEK) …

 
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