Circuit Judge Ben G. Williams chose the upper end of Murray Street to build a large brick home for his growing family in 1905. Considered a very suburban location at the time, most activities were centered across the river on Main and Broadway streets.
That same year, construction began on the new Capitol building not far from Judge Williams’ three-story Queen Anne-style home. The new state house would take four years to complete — quite a bit more time than the Williams home.
Eight decades would pass before Bill and Marie Cull bought the home in the historic district. In 1985, the two attorneys moved to the Murray Street residence, bringing a sense of the history that preceded them.
“We’ve talked to Taylor and John Hay (grandchildren of Judge Williams) about the time they spent at their mother’s (Ruthie’s) childhood home. There are lots of stories,” Bill comments.
An important part of the house’s history happened in 1933 when it burned.
“Peggy Dungan, six-years-old at the time, was at a birthday party in Tanglewood and told us she saw the fire from there,” Bill says.
Leo Oberwarth Architects were brought in and redesigned the home in the Colonial Revival style. Architectural plans dated Jan. 22, 1934 hang in the hallway and the four tall chimneys remain as a reminder of the height of the original house.
Since they’ve owned it, the Culls have renovated most of the areas of the house. They have reopened the second floor, creating three bedrooms, a bathroom and laundry room.
The kitchen has been completely redesigned and is now open to an inviting porch area. The original sleeping porch along the back of the house has been enlarged and enclosed. A new deck has been built in the back.
Bill likes to spend time in his special chair on the porch. The decor is bright and casual with several colorful pieces of art from their sailing adventures in the Caribbean. A water maple tree trunk piece from the property has been fashioned into a focal point as the television stand.
In the backyard, Marie has created a haven by adding perennial beds with shade-loving plants — ferns and hostas, bleeding hearts and Jacob’s Ladder. In the sunny beds are peonies and roses.
Mature magnolias including a spectacular saucer magnolia produce huge blooms in season. Their land dips down over a hill and runs to the Kentucky River.
The kitchen has been thoughtfully designed with a hanger over the sink for pots and pans and a large gas range. Metal countertops are next to the stove for hot pans; butcher block for cutting and food preparation; and marble for candy making.
“Unfortunately, we’ve given over the marble counter by the window to the cat,” Bill says, smiling.
The room off of the front sitting area serves as a library and office. “This room has heartwood pine in it and that wood is not abundant anymore,” Bill explains. Quilts that were Bill’s grandmother’s decorate the upper shelves, making a patchwork of color around the room.
Toys from Bill’s childhood dot the shelves, as well. Travel books and many others spill from the shelves.
The sitting room has comfortable furnishings, eclectic art and a warm gas fireplace. One of Marie’s favorites, a painting by local artist Kay Kirkland, hangs just inside the front door.
“This painting was on display at The Grand and I just loved it,” she said.
The living room opens to a unique, beautiful dining room. An ornately carved dining room set that belonged to Marie’s grandparents is surrounded by gold-foiled wall-coverings with a red underlay.
“I love it when we have a dinner party and the candles are lit. It’s so gorgeous and warm. The room kind of glows,” Marie said.
The furnishings are a combination of heirlooms from Marie’s and Bill’s families.
“We’ve only bought a few pieces of furniture, but that’s just fine with us. They have meaning to us,” Marie commented.
One of those heirlooms is the bed in their master bedroom. “It belonged to my grandparents from Bardstown. We love it,” Bill said.
“We have pieces from my other grandfather, too, who was a furniture builder,” Bill remarked. Marie uses one of his small samples as a jewelry box. She explains that he would travel with the samples so he could show people his products.
Marie, an attorney and lobbyist with Cull & Hayden, P.S.C., said that on winter evenings, she likes to sit by the fire with their pets and work in the front room.
“I turn the fire on and they all come in and sit. The cat sits on the ottoman. Lily usually has her tail end against the fire and Skip tries to pen them all in — he’s a herder.”
Most evenings, Bill and Marie walk their two dogs, Skip and Lily, around the Capitol grounds. The couple agrees that they enjoy where they live.
“I love just being able to get anywhere pretty quickly by walking,” Marie said.
Bill, who has served as president of The Grand Theatre since 2004, says he really enjoys walking to work when he can.
“It’s a nice 20-minute walk across the river,” he said.
“We like it here. It’s a great house, a great location and we have great neighbors. It’s just nice,” Marie said.