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Robert and Eva Wessels own Central Park Bed & Breakfast, a historic Victorian mansion and one of eight stops on this year’s Old Louisville Holiday Home Tour. Though the three-story house at 1353 S. Fourth St., has received updates for modern-day accommodations, it has been around since 1884 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Full of history
“Vernon Price was the owner, along with his wife and family,” Eva explained. “He was a vinegar manufacturer, (and) the president of the Saturday Evening Post, (and) he was on the L&N Railroad board. He was a mover and shaker of the day.”
Eva said the home next door is thought to have belonged to Price’s mother-in-law, which would explain certain similarities between the two mansions. The sun detailing on the interior of the Wessels’ home, for example, matches the design on the outside of their neighbor’s house. The fireplaces in both also feature the same Rookwood tile from Cincinnati.
More than a century later, certain aspects from Price’s original residence remain. Guests can still walk on the original encaustic tile in the dining room and utilize the hand-hammered brass hardware throughout the home.
“Every shutter and every door on the first and second floor are all original to the house,” Eva added. “It was never chopped up into apartments except (for) on the third floor. … It has always been privately owned, and so that is why you have the integrity of this house.”
The transom window above the front door is also original. “We had a Russian stained-glass guy come in,” Eva said. “He took a photograph and replicated the pattern in the door.”
Just inside the front door to the left sits one of only three split-flue fireplaces in Old Louisville. “It’s the only one with the original glass,” Robert said. The angel in this stained-glass, Eva added, is why they purchased the property in the first place.
“We actually bought the house because of the angel in the fireplace,” Eva said. Christmas is her favorite season, which is partly why she and Robert agreed to open their space to the public for the Holiday Home Tour.
Reason for the season
Getting ready for the annual tour, which was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, is no small feat.
“We close … for three full days (to decorate),” said innkeeper Majestic Harry, who puts her own touch on the holiday décor by filling various vases in the kitchen with oranges and cranberries. “Back the day, they used to string cranberries,” she told The Courier Journal. “They used to decorate with strings of cranberries, popcorn, and oranges — so that’s my homage. I’m hoping when people do the tour, they’ll (make the connection), because, in the 1800s and 1900s, that’s what they had to decorate.”
Set on a shelf above the vases are eight Jacqueline Kent caroler figurines that have been a part of Eva’s decoration collection for a long time. “Those are special to me,” she said. “I worked for 30 years at UC Davis — I was a nurse — and I bought those in a gift shop, kind of piecemeal, over time. … They’re probably 30 years old. … I’ve had them for so many years. Those are special ornaments for us.”
Another particularly meaningful piece is the antique goose feather tree near the side door. Robert’s grandmother used to put up a bird tree, so it’s something Eva tries to duplicate every year. “It’s (a) very traditional German (decoration),” Robert said.
Eva added, “Queen Victoria’s husband was from Germany, so they started the Christmas tree. Price Albert started the Christmas tree tradition in England, and it came over here.”
Of course, the house is filled with a plethora of other embellishments as well. From Christmas trees and wreaths to candles and Mark Roberts ornaments, the mansion is brimming with holiday adornments. However, Eva stresses that Christmas means much more to them than decorations and celebrations.
“The Messiah is the reason for Christmas,” she said. “In fact, we’ve dedicated a room to the Three Kings, Mary and Joseph that you will notice when you walk in on the right. Christmas is the time when we should all remember the true reason for the reason.”
The Old Louisville Holiday Home Tour
WHAT: The Old Louisville Holiday Home Tour will showcase the rich and diverse history of Historic Old Louisville during the yuletide season. The 2021 tour will showcase two iconic mansions and six other houses in Old Louisville.
WHEN: Dec. 4-5, noon to 5 p.m.
WHERE: Ticket headquarters are at the Old Louisville Visitors Center in Central Park, 1340 S. Fourth Street. Every home on this year’s tour is located within a three-block radius.
TICKETS: Tickets are $30 and may be purchased online at old-louisville-neighborhood-council.square.site or in person at the Old Louisville Visitors Center. Children ages 12 and younger are free. Masks are required upon entry. Patrons must start at Will Call inside the Visitors Center to receive their brochure, which will serve as an admission ticket and will include a listing of all eight participating locations.
PARKING: There is ample street parking, as well as parking at the Filson Historical Society lots on Third Street and the Goodwill Lot on Fourth Street across from the Louisville Bourbon Inn.
MORE INFORMATION: For more information about the Old Louisville Holiday Home Tour, visit oldlouisville.org/holiday-home-tour or call 502-635-5244.
nuts & bolts
Owners: Robert and Eva Wessels.
Home: This is Central Park Bed & Breakfast, a 7-bed, 8-bath, 6,038-square-foot, Victorian mansion in Old Louisville that was built in 1884 at 1353 S. Fourth St.
Distinctive elements: Fine period furnishings and examples of exquisite craftsmanship; visible architecture of original construction and detailing in front porch ceiling, stained-glass windows, oak woodwork, and intricately hammered brass hardware; 11 fireplaces.
Applause! Applause! Contractors Harry Edelyn and Tom Boone.