Culbertson Mansion – Kentucky bed and breakfast is rich in history

Published 1:44 am Monday, August 29, 2022

Story by Benita Heath | Photography by Sarah Simmons, Mark Williams

The sun was streaming through an upstairs bedroom of the Culbertson Mansion in Louisville, once the home of one of the city’s rich families. Now, as a bed and breakfast, it has become a gracious refuge from the whirlwind stress outside.

Guests awaken easily as the aroma of freshly-brewed coffee drifts upstairs.

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Soon they will be crowded around the Honduran mahogany dining room table to feast on breakfast, the meal nutritionists say is the most important of the day.

Those staying at the Culbertson know it is going to taste good whether they ask for something simple like eggs or the elaborate examples of creativity the B&B offers.

“The menu is based on how many we have and any dietary restrictions guests have, “ Jason Van Straten, innkeeper, said.

What is an example of the more elaborate breakfast fare?

Why not try Cinnamon French Toast, dripping with the spice that may help thwart the damage free radicals can do to the body.

Or how about Van Straten’s latest creation, the Southern Charlotte, a recipe that stuffs French Toast with cream cheese, pineapple and blueberries, topped with toasted coconut.

While hotel restaurants can offer food that is tasty, those running the Culbertson want their guests to have an experience that is out of the ordinary.

And out of the ordinary could also describe the mansion’s furnishings. Cookie cutter decor is definitely verboten at the Culbertson.

That is where the expertise of Rudy Van Meter, the other innkeeper, comes in.

“Rudy is an antiques dealer,” Van Straten said. “We collect and if we find something better we trade out.”

Such high standards in furnishings matches the philosophy of the man whose fortune built the mansion. That would be Samuel Alexander Culbertson, son of William Stewart Culbertson.

William Culbertson, through his dealings in dry goods, the railroad and utilities, became in the mid to late 19th Century the richest man in Indiana.

With that money he built a French Empire mansion in New Albany, Indiana, across from Louisville.

In 1896 Samuel Culbertson bought land on Millionaires Row in Louisville and watched his house spring up on Third Avenue. Today it is called the Old Louisville Historic District.

Construction on the Georgian Revival house that the younger Culbertson wanted took one year costing $25,000. Today that figure translates close to $750, 000.

The house has 50 rooms on 20,000 square feet of floor space. A two-story carriage house adds 3,500 square feet of floor space. Both structures surround a courtyard, fountain and rose garden.

Usually only a week’s notice is required to secure a reservation. What one leaves the mansion with, the innkeepers hope, is a sense of relaxation, an appreciation for beautiful furnishings and maybe a new friend or two.

“I’ve seen many a friendship start here,” Van Straten said.