The Ferguson Mansion
By L. Suzette Miguel
Innovative cottonseed refiner, Edwin Hite Ferguson, his wife, Sophie Fullerton Marfield, and their daughter Margaret Fullerton Ferguson, moved into their $100,000 beaux-arts mansion amidst tremendous personal, financial, and social success. The family lived here with six servants in this Third Street streetcar suburban neighborhood now known as "Old Louisville." Seeing his fortune dwindle after making risky business moves, Ferguson sold the mansion in 1924 to The Pearson Funeral Home. Ferguson died less than two weeks after the sale, leaving a small residual estate worth only $46,000.
The bon vivant Ferguson found a comrade-in-arms when he signed William J. Dodd of Dodd and Cobb as his architect in 1901. Dodd is well known for another of Louisville's beaux-arts treasures, the Seelbach Hotel. The architect and client collaborated on details for what became the most costly residence ever built in Louisville at the time. In fact, money was no object. Ferguson tore down the home he purchased just north of the building site to enlarge the project and equipped the home with central heating. The finished home was such a gorgeous example of beaux-arts architecture that architectural historian Walter E. Langsam observed that the Ferguson Mansion "would not have looked out of place in the Bois de Boulogne."
The Fergusons filled the mansion with custom-ordered pieces, such as Tiffany glass light orbs in the original library and such acquired European treasures as the Caen fireplace in the entry hall. The mosaic-tiled Third Street entrance, matching sun porch, murals, paneling, and staircase are among many interior treasures to match the superb exterior. The classicism of the beaux-arts style, based n the precepts of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, includes a number of design elements found at the Ferguson Mansion. The symmetrical fašade, rusticated first story, decorative wall surfaces, oval cartouches over doorways, entry porch supported by columns, and a balustrade over cornice lines showcase this architectural style.
The Filson won a preservation award for its adaptive use of space in the Ferguson Mansion. Taking great care to match the masonry work, the addition on the west side of the building blends seamlessly with the original house. Originally accessible from the dining room through the glass doors, the old solarium used to overlook the back lawn. The new construction now houses six levels of stacks - six thousand square feet of climate-controlled space containing and preserving many thousands of historically significant items. The Filson also acquired some of the original Ferguson furniture. Mrs. Ferguson had willed furnishings and decorative items to a family friend. These items came on the auction block in 1984, and The Filson successfully bid on several pieces. The dining-room table and buffet are among these treasures.
Like any other private residence, the mansion witnessed its share of intimate family gatherings, lavish parties, and personal joys and sorrows. It stands now as a vault holding our vast research collection.
Please visit The Filson to take a free, self-guided tour of the Ferguson Mansion, learn about the Ferguson gamily, see many of the family's original decorative-arts pieces, view our impressive antebellum portrait collection, and visit our permanent and rotating museum exhibits.
For an online tour of the Ferguson Mansion, click here.
The Filson Historical Society