Gardens & Grounds of Locust Grove

William Croghan’s Locust Grove featured a complex overlay of uses. As a gentleman’s country seat, it included formal and symmetrical elements declaring the status and taste of its owner. As a working farm, it included utilitarian buildings, fences, and other features for practical use to keep its inhabitants fed and sheltered.


The gardens at Locust Grove are foursquare quadrant gardens in the English style with ornamental flowers and shrubs, many of them period varieties.

Near the distillery grow heirloom vegetables such as squash, tomatoes, beans, and corn, and an arbor covered with grape vines.

The garden plan is based on that of nearby Soldier’s Retreat, another Clark family home.


Hearth Kitchen

The outdoor kitchen at Locust Grove was vital due to cooking odors, intense heat, and fire risks, leading to its separate structure. This setup also emphasized the status separation between the main house family and the enslaved cooks and assistants. The large stone fireplace was central to meal preparation, using pots and kettles over coals on a swing-out crane, making kitchen work an all-day, labor-intensive task. The kitchen loft served as a sleeping and storage area for the enslaved workers who prepared all meals for the Croghan family and guests, highlighting the exhaustive daily demands on these skilled individuals.

One enslaved head cook documented at Locust Grove was named “Nan.” Cooking in this setting required honed skills, and Nan mastered it. Historian Michael Twitty notes that enslaved Africans arrived empty-handed but not empty-headed, and Nan possessed a wealth of special knowledge and skill. Nan serves as a reminder that enslaved people at Locust Grove were individual human beings with their own pasts, stories, hopes, and dreams, not merely a mass of laborers. Her legacy underscores the humanity and expertise of the enslaved community at Locust Grove.

Learn more about Nan


The smokehouse was essential for curing and preserving meat like poultry, beef, pork, venison, and mutton, ensuring the family had meat year-round. Pork, a Southern farm staple, was often included in food allotments for enslaved workers. Hogs were slaughtered in late fall and winter to aid preservation. Meat was brined with salt, sugar, and saltpeter and then smoked for up to six weeks. Hung from hooks in the smokehouse, properly processed meat could remain edible for 2-4 years. The smokehouse allowed the family to store meat effectively, providing a crucial food supply throughout the year.


In 1808, William Croghan established a 66-gallon farm distillery at Locust Grove, using grain from the property’s mill to produce whiskey. Water from the millrace cooled the still’s copper coil. This distillery, now reconstructed, represents its historical significance. Locust Grove likely produced clear “new make” whiskey and brandy from corn, wheat, and possibly oats. Operated by enslaved workers, the distillery maximized fruit from Croghan’s orchards to prevent spoilage. While household records show Madeira wine, rum, and whiskey purchases, the distillery was vital for processing grain and fruit, contributing to the economy by selling whiskey and brandy for cash.

Learn more about our farm distillery project.

Spring House

Springhouses were two-story stone buildings with a frame roof built into hillsides. The upper level provided cool, dry storage, while the bottom level used cold stream water to preserve milk, cheese, and other perishables stored in crocks. They featured a dipping pool where hillside water entered at ground level. Clean water was crucial on the Kentucky frontier due to common waterborne diseases like cholera in river-connected cities. The springhouse helped ensure a safer water supply and proper food preservation.

Ice House

The reconstructed ice house provided summer cold storage for the farm. In winter, ice blocks were cut from frozen ponds, creeks, and rivers, transported by wagon, and lowered 16-18 feet into the icehouse using a pulley system. Blocks were insulated with 2 feet of straw, sawdust, or corn shucks, allowing ice to last through winter and into fall. Enslaved workers removed or chipped ice blocks as needed. Peeking inside today reveals how dark and cool it remained, even in summer’s heat.

Wash House

While the original purpose of this space is uncertain, it likely served as a wash house or laundry for the farm due to its layout and features. With windows on both northern and southern walls for ventilation and proximity to the well, it was ideal for laundry tasks. Enslaved women, skilled in textile crafts, undertook the daunting task of laundry, involving lye, boiling water, hot irons, and other solvents. Enslaved children assisted by fetching firewood and water. The process included soaking, boiling, beating clothes to remove dirt, rinsing, air drying, ironing, folding, and storing textiles for future use.