Surrounded by stately stone walls and nestled within a scenic Bluegrass backdrop is a special place that is steeped in Kentucky history. Merging old with new, owners Ron & Elise Wallace have transformed a former historic distillery into a rustic and beautiful modern home that they have affectionately named The Ruin.
Located in Woodford County near the famed Woodford Reserve distillery, and surrounded by world-class horse farms such as Gainsborough Stud, Airdrie Stud, Ashford Stud, Diamond A, Brookdale and Stonestreet, the 8-acre property also features a two-suite bed and breakfast (B&B), operated by the Wallaces.
Originally home to the Glen Springs bourbon distillery, the site dates back to the 1800s. Glen Springs was the first distillery to employ Dr. James Crow, a Scottish immigrant who came to Kentucky in 1823. Crow applied his knowledge of science to the making of whiskey, and is loosely credited as the inventor of the sour mash process used in creating bourbon. Other distilleries followed his method, and his influence was such that the New York Times, nearly fifty years after his death, would attribute “to him, more than any other man…the international reputation that Kentucky whiskey enjoys.”
After the distillery closed, the property was left unattended for many years, and fell into disrepair. And then, the Wallaces discovered it. “We looked at farms and houses for months,” explains Ron, known for his expertise in designing and building equine farms, many of which are in the area. “When Elise and I first saw it, it was just a pile of rubble, and the roof was caved in. People thought we were crazy.” Elise, a family therapist, had the idea to transform the home into a B&B. “We had so much space, it just made sense to share it. It was a natural progression.”
B&B guests are welcome to gather in any of the main living areas, including the dining area located centrally in the main living space, adjacent to the glass enclosed porch. Twin hallways extend off either side of this room and lead to the two private family bedrooms in the home.
The main living area is connected to a lovely outdoor space via a glass garage door. “This is where we spend most of our time, and where our guests like to gather for breakfast,” Ron said.
The couple hired Wilmes Architects along with Phil Gerrow and his team from Midway Preservation to complete the renovation. Ron and Elise have documented the entire renovation process and compiled it into a coffee table book of photos for guests to view. At 3,435 square feet, the property includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large living space, a modern kitchen, enclosed porch and den loft.
A major goal of the renovation was to create the look and feel of an authentic log cabin. The reclaimed materials give the home just the right rustic feel to reflect the property’s history. Almost everywhere you look in the house, you find something that has been salvaged, either from the property itself, or somewhere nearby. Very few materials went to waste during construction—and as a final touch, the front door, the last project of the renovation, was constructed from the former scaffolding.
Carter & Witt Stonework did an extensive restoration of the original limestone walls. The height of the wall led to the overall cathedral design of the main living area.
“The ceiling is composed of old fence boards from area horse farms and the crisscrossing beams in the main living area came from a railroad yard in Virginia. However, the [ceiling] beams with the notches in them came from the distillery. That’s what the bourbon barrels were stored on,” he explained. The main living area includes additional salvaged materials from the property, including wall and flooring panels originally from a tobacco barn. Other materials were reclaimed from area farms, barns and warehouses.
One of the most striking aspects of the space is a stairway leading to a comfortable lofted den area. Wilmes came up with an ingenious design idea, and added a row of operable windows close to the ceiling. The catwalk on rafters was designed specifically to access the windows, which act as a chimney to release warm air during the summer months.
The kitchen is perhaps the most contemporary space in the home, yet even here, we see plenty of rustic and reclaimed elements. The ceiling is crafted from beautifully textured logs from a local cabin that still have their original bark. The cabin elements are perfectly balanced with fresh granite countertops, stainless steel appliances from Pieratt’s and a simple, glazed finish on the cabinetry, which was done by Barber Cabinets. Julie Zinsmeister at Brecher Lighting assisted in selecting the light fixtures.
The guest bedroom, which also serves as Ron’s office, offers a nod to the property’s distillery past. A collection of antique half-cut bourbon barrels form a decorative element above the guest bed. And naturally, they are displayed on the same notched beams that held them in the distillery years ago.
The master suite overlooks beautiful Kentucky countryside, including some of the original stone walls of The Ruin. Furniture throughout the Wallace home is a mix of items they already owned, or purchased at Arhaus as needed, creating a continuous relaxed style throughout the property.
Situated in the back corner of the home, where the two original stone walls meet, the master bathroom offers luxury with a natural finish. An open shower concept and streamlined, open twin vanities stay true to the simple lines and uncomplicated atmosphere conjured by the exposed natural materials. The windows were installed by Marvin Windows, with blinds, shutters and other treatments from Miller Windows. Sliding glass doors off the bedroom area allow the Wallaces to move effortlessly to the private outdoor sitting space.
Accessible from the main house via a covered walkway is the guest house, which is reserved specifically for B&B visitors. It is complete with two bedrooms, each with an adjoining bath, a shared living space, kitchenette, and a rear-facing veranda overlooking farmland. The guest house was built before the main renovation, and served as a temporary home for the Wallaces during construction. Most of the structure is new construction, but unsurprisingly, they were able to reuse much of the wood and some stone that was already on the property. “When working on the slab foundation for the guest house, it became necessary to dig down to rock below,” said Ron. “It was during that process that we discovered the stone vats used during the distillery days. We used the stones to make the fireplace.”
Walking from room to room in The Ruin, it’s notable that despite the large amount of wood and stone that created and surrounds the property, the entire space feels open and bright. “I was concerned this was going to be a dark house, but it’s not,” said Ron. “Every time we put a window in the plan, I told them to make it bigger.” And with his vision and the exceptional work of his team of craftsmen, The Ruin is truly a hidden gem, and an idyllic stop for travelers wishing for a private Bluegrass retreat. •