Esta Cabin 1870
This lower and oldest rustic cabin has served as the symbol for the
Little Loomhouse for almost 60 years. It is not only an interesting
example of its kind of architecture, but it also has a fascinating
history. In the late 1860’s Beoni Figg acquired this tract of land from
the Phillips family. R. Figg had a charcoal business and started a
limestone quarry on Kenwood Hill. He built the cabin as an office as
well as quarters for his caretakers. It originally consisted of just two
rooms with vertical split log siding. The outside wooden stairway
leading to the second story was built, according to one of Figg’s
daughters, to prevent the caretaker from entering the business office.
Because of business reverses, the cabin was sold in 1876 to Charles W. Gheens, the husband of Figg’s daughter, Mary. It was converted to a
summer home for his family. Sam Stone Bush, Secretary of the Kenwood
Residential Company, acquired the cabin in the 1890’s from the Gheens
family and remodeled it again. During one of these remodelings the
siding was changed to the board and batten style. Bush also built the
other two cabins. All three cabins were used for summer homes.
1898, Etta Hest, an artist, purchased the cabin and originated the
tradition of it as a center for cultural life in southern Jefferson
County. She established an annual Strawberry Festival for artists,
writers and teachers. The Hill sisters, noted kindergarten and music
teachers who had a summer cabin up Kenwood Hill, wrote the Happy
Birthday song which was first sung in Esta.
The next owner, Mary Wulf, a writer and artist, bought the cabin in 1907
and continued using it for community oriented events. An early Sunday
school class held in this cabin led to the founding of St. Mark Lutheran
Church on Southside Drive. Mrs. Wulff held special gatherings to which
she invited Kentucky artists, poets, and writers, as well as neighboring
residents who had built summer log cabins on the hillside. She always
included children in these parties. Tate said her first acquaintance
with the cabin was during such a visit. It was during Mrs. Wulff’s time
that the cabin was named Esta, which is said to be an old Norse saying
meaning, “May God’s presence be in this dwelling.”
1939, Tate’s mother purchased the property from Mary Wulff’s estate as a
retirement home and space for Tate’s weaving business. Sadly, her mother
died shortly thereafter. Tate inherited the property and lived and
worked there for the rest of her life.
The cabin soon became a gathering place for weavers and those interested
in learning to weave. Through the years Esta has had many distinguished
visitors. In the 1940’s, Eleanor Roosevelt paid a visit. As she entered
the cabin her foot went through a loose board. After noticing a number
of other boards, which had been initialed, she asked for paint and a
brush and added her name. This bit of history has long ago disappeared.
Today Esta Cabin is used to illustrate
some of the Little Loomhouse history. The first floor has a historic
display featuring the life and career of Lou Tate as well as examples of
weaving and spinning artifacts and equipment.
The upstairs area
contains Lou Tate’s numbered patterns and weaving information. There
are organized files with photos and letters written by Lou Tate, as well
as the archives of The Lou Tate Foundation from it’s beginning in 1979.
A number of textile samples are being identified and properly preserved
under the supervision of Barbara Terranova.
space becomes available, we hope to turn this space into a period room
featuring typical furnishing, including one example from our coverlet