Beechmore: The Jennie Casseday's Rest Cottage for Working Women

Beechmore: The Jennie Casseday's Rest Cottage for Working Women Years and Beyond 
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Jennie Casseday’s Rest Cottage was located on the Pewee Valley property shown as 
Beechmore on The Little Colonel game board from 1896 until the 1940s.

Although Jennie Casseday's Rest Cottage for Working Women was not mentioned in the Little Colonel stories, it was a Pewee Valley fixture for more than half a century, including the years when Annie Fellows Johnston wrote the Little Colonel stories and lived at The Beeches. Also, it's namesake may have inspired the sad tale of Marietta Waring in "The Little Colonel's Christmas Vacation", 1905. 

In "Jennie Casseday of Louisville : her intimate life as told by her sister, Mrs. Fannie Casseday Duncan," Mrs. Duncan eloquently describes the experience that eventually led Jennie to open the Rest Cottage in 1889:

"One day when Jennie was just grown and had the world before her, she had some dresses made for a watering-place summering, and she went to a dress making establishment where they make dresses like dreams. By some mistake, she was taken to the work room, on the top floor, instead of the daintily furnished fitting rooms of Madame's apartments. The work room was a hot, square room right under a tin roof, with blindless windows all a-row to the midday sun. Here human toilers sat and span to make creations for rich young women. That was long before the days of women clerks, office girls, women in business. Flushed, tired faces looked up at Jennie as she was unfortunately ushered into their midst. In two corners were coal stoves which heated irons and the June atmosphere with equal indifference. The whole scene was a revelation to Jennie Casseday."

It was many years after her chance encounter with the abysmal conditions in the garment industry before Jennie Casseday was able to bring her idea – an inexpensive place for working girls to take a summer vacation -- to fruition. Documents residing at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Ky. show that during the Rest Cottage's first seven years of operation, the land and buildings were rented. Camden in Oldham County (a train stop in what is now Crestwood, Ky.) was the site for the Rest Cottage’s first summer. In 1895, it was held in Pewee Valley at “Mr. Kaye’snear Houston/Huston” and in 1896 at “Beechmoor.” A year later, the Rest Cottage’s Board of Directors bought the “Beechmoor” property outright and held a formal dedication service on Wednesday, June 9, 1897 on the anniversary of Jennie’s birthday.

Named for Frances Willard's home in Evanston, In., the Rest Cottage was described in promotional brochures as a "vacation home for wage-earning women, to which they can go in the summer idle time and spend two weeks in absolute rest near to nature's heart." The vacationers included "young women from the telephone and telegraph offices, from the stenographer's desk and storehouse and school-room; and many were toiling beyond their strength and were weary and exhausted."

A sample page from their register tallied 15 teachers; six bookkeepers; 19 dress-seamstresses; 21 tailoresses; 10 stenographers; 13 store clerks; six "old women much laid by," three milliners, three finishers, one music teacher, three cash girls, one hair-dresser, one copyist, four weavers, one book agent, one artist, three operators, one janitor in a public school, two apprentices, one linen woman in a hotel and five housekeepers.


Activities at the Rest Cottage included "jingle parties and whistle games, black-bird pies and cob-web parties, straw rides and cake walks, pic-nics and donkey parties, charades and lantern strolls, serenades in the moonlight, and watermelon feasts, tableaux on the lawn, lighting with flashlights." In addition, "the ministers of various churches were invited out to tea every other week...the girls took delight in adorning the tables with lovely flowers, arranging boutonnières for all the plates, and afterwards serving fired chicken, coffee with Jersey cream, hot buttermilk biscuits and other toothsome viands prepared by our good cook. After tea all gathered on the lawn under the old pine trees and held an open air service."

Cost to these young women was just $1.00 per week, plus one cent per mile for transportation. And placed on the looking-glass of every room was the following sentiment from Jennie Casseday printed on dainty card board:

"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing therefore that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being let me do it now. Let me not defer it, nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

The Rest Cottage continued operations into the 1940s at which time the property was purchased by Mrs. Mary Crain, who turned it into a nursing home. The photos below, from “The Land of the Little Colonel,” published in 1974 by Mrs. John S. (Katie) Smith, show what it looked like at that time.

Beechmore: Mary Crain’s Nursing Home, exterior

Beechmore: Mary Crain’s Nursing Home, interior

After Mary Crain’s death, Beechmore fell into decay and had to be demolished. The 64-acre property is now the site of The Woods of Pewee Valley subdivision.

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Page by Donna  Russell