As the British ships retreated for a second time and the War of 1812 came to a close, the United States began a 50 year period of peace and the great experiment of "democracy" resumed. Thomas Jefferson, a few years earlier, guided young architects to emulate the classic forms of the Greek temples as they designed our nation's capital. The Greek Revival Period of Architecture ushered in an unprecedented building spree in which most of the great buildings of our country were erected.
Young Americans moved west in great numbers searching out new opportunities and claiming rich farmlands of the Midwest. In 1838, Dr. John N. Lewis moved his family from Albemarle, Virginia and settled just a few miles from the bustling river-town of Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Lewis built his home less than a mile away from Locust Grove, the place where his famous cousin Meriwether Lewis and William Clark started their famous journey to conquer the west.
When Dr. Lewis arrived in Louisville with his family in 1838, they found a thriving community. Mechanized water travel via the steamboat had turned this sleepy little river town into a major hub of trade and commerce. By 1840 Louisville's population had swelled to well over 20,000 citizens and would continue to grow tenfold until the turn of the century.
In this same year the Board of Trustees for the Old Bank of Louisville hired James H. Dakin, one of the most influential architects of the day, to design and build a grand structure worthy of the city's newfound wealth and status. Today this small-scale Greek temple inspired structure on Main Street is considered one of the most sophisticated examples of Greek Revival architecture in America. This facade is now the main entrance to Actors Theatre of Louisville.
While we know little of Dr. Lewis' life, his family connections surely would have allowed him to admire firsthand the great architecture of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. But the style of his new home would be more influenced by the Greek Revival plantations of the south. Perhaps Dr. Lewis came to Kentucky with a vision for a grand country home after a visit to his prestigious cousin and Governor of the Louisiana Territory - Meriwether Lewis.
Dr. Lewis purchased a five-acre tract of land from Daniel Gilman, who operated a roadhouse tavern on the dusty trail toward Frankfort, Kentucky. Later renamed St. Matthews, Gilman's Point became the first stop east of Louisville for the Louisville, Cincinnati and Lexington Railroad.