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Headley-Whitney Museum of Art

4435 Old Frankfort Pike

Lexington, Ky 40510

859.255.6653

The Grounds

Jewel Room & Library

The Jewel Room & Library was originally built in 1968 to house George Headley's Bibelot collection (currently on display in the Main Building). The design was meant to replicate elements of a jewelry box, with deep rosewood doors and brass finishings.  Tours of Headley's private library are aviable on the hour, with the last tour at 3:00PM.  The Library houses George Headley's 1,500 volume fine art library as well as some of his ecclectic collections.

The Headley Library building is a synthesis of architectural styles and elements that appealed to Headley. The building was designed by Lexington architect, Robert Pinkerton, in consultation with Mr. Headley. The building reflects a number of Headley's favorite architectural motifs. For example, Pinkerton juxtaposed a sloped Thai roof, Greek columns, English windows, a French floor design, and Georgian moldings. 

The brick and limestone pavilion is symmetrical with two separate rooms joined by a central converged breezeway. The two domed bay windows at the pavilion's front are thought to be based on the facade of the Luton Hoo in Bedforshire, England, a building designed by the 18th century British architect Robert Adams. 

The library interior, finished in pickled oak veneer, is flooded with natural light and views of the museum grounds. Details inspired by Robert Adams continue to appear in the moldings and in the niches at the four corners of the room. 

The library holdings consist of books, catalogs, and periodicals on topics such as decorative arts, fine art, architecture, design, cultural history, and natural history. The museum encourages use of the Library collection by researchers and is available by appointment. 

The library collection as well as the Shell Grotto reflect Headley's love of natural objects. 

 

 

Marylou Whitney Rose Garden

In 2004, the Garden was added to the Grounds as a 6th wedding anniversary present from Marylou Whitney's husband, John Hendrickson.  The garden is a replica of Marylou Whitney's Saratoga garden in New York.  The garden is planted with knockout roses.  The colors alternate between red and pink.  The key viewing season for the Rose Garden is May-October.  

 

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Shell Grotto

In 1973 George W. Headley added a shell grotto to the grounds of the Headley-Whitney Museum of Art. The building was transformed from a three-car garage into a shell grotto with thousands of shells attached to the building's interior. Headley worked with assistants and friends for nearly a year gluing commercially available shells and polished stones to the walls, doors, and window moldings. In addition, Headley's collection of shell and fossil specimens, acquired and purchased during his travels are displayed throughout the room. 

From the coral slabs of the floor mined in the Florida Keys to the four mosaics on the ceiling created by artist and friend Carl Malouf, Headley created an exotic sea environment full of intriguing furnishings and fanciful objects decorated and constructed with shells. 

The inspiration for Headley's shell grotto came from architectural precedents of seventeenth and eighteenth-century France, England and Italy. The airy buildings and artificial caves decorated with shells, generally built in the gardens on the estate of the aristocracy, appealed to his aesthetic and taste in things European. Like the aristocracy, Headley intended the grotto to be a distraction from the formalities of life in the main residence. For him it was both a place for quiet contemplation and for entertaining. 

One example of a grotto that Headley was probably familiar with was the Grotto of Thetis built in the park at Versailles by Louis XIV in 1679. It is possible that Headley utilized a number of elements evident in the grand French grotto for his structure. For example, the classical architectural features of a triple doorway and columns with shell capitals of the Grotto of Thetis are a part of Headley's grotto. Similarly, furnishings of shell encrusted chandeliers and fantastic shell masks, illustrated in the drawings of Thetis, are also part of Headley's twentieth century American shell grotto.