Edgewood Manor: 1864 - Present

Edgewood Manor
The Craig Years, the Little Colonel Years and Beyond (1864-Present)
(Sunnyside-Edgewood from “Historic Pewee Valley”)

for more on Edgewood visit: The Walter N. Haldeman Years (1854-64)

This Kate Matthews photo shows Edgewood as it looked during the “Little Colonel” era, when the
house faced Central Avenue and was owned by the Craig family. In 1988, it was moved 160 feet to its
present location in the Edgewood Manor subdivision. The front entrance is now parallel to Central.

Annie Fellows Johnston first acquaints her young readers with Edgewood in “Two Little Knights of Kentucky (Who Were the Little Colonel’s Neighbors)” published in 1899.  Both the house and the characters introduced in that book – Grandmother McIntyre; Aunt Allison; Aunt Elise and Uncle Sidney; the “Two Little Knights,” Keith and Malcolm McIntyre; and Captain and Mrs. Dudley as well as their daughter “Ginger”  – were destined to become mainstays of the “Little Colonel” series.

In real life, Edgewood was the home of the Craig family from about 1864 to 1933, when the last family member living in the house died. For fifty of those years, Annie Craig was Edgewood’s owner, until her death at age 85 in 1914. She and her husband, Louisville hat and fur merchant Alexander Craig, purchased the house at auction during the Civil War after it was confiscated from its second owner, newspaper publisher Walter Haldeman. Just four years later, Alexander died, leaving Annie to raise their seven children – four daughters and three sons -- alone.

It was Annie Craig who served as the model for “Mrs. McIntyre” in the “Little Colonel” series. Daughter, Fanny, was the model for Aunt Allison; daughter Louise and son-in-law Samuel Culbertson were the models for Aunt Elise and Uncle Sidney; grandchildren Craig and William Culbertson were the real-life counterparts of “Two Little Knights” Keith and Malcolm McIntyre; and daughter Mary/Mamie and her husband Captain Lawton were the Dudleys. In later books, as Annie Fellows Johnston’s friendship with Mamie Lawton deepened, the fictional name for the Lawton family changed from Dudley to Walton.

Annie Fellows Johnston talks about her use of Fanny Craig, the Culbertson boys and Edgewood as the inspiration for “Two Little Knights of Kentucky” in her autobiography, “The Land of the Little Colonel”:

The following summer I wrote "Two Little Knights of Kentucky." It was suggested by a picture I had seen of two of Miss Fanny Craig's nephews, handsome aristocratic little fellows. I took Miss Fanny for the Miss Allison of the story, and located the scene at her place. I had seen a trained bear tramping through the country with its trainer the winter before. Jonesy was straight from the Chicago slums.

This passage from Chapter II of “Two Little Knights of Kentucky” offers a fairly accurate depiction of both Edgewood and life in Pewee Valley at the time the book was written:

…"I thought you have always wanted to see mamma's old home, and the places you have heard so much about. There are all the old toys in the nursery that we had when we were children, and the grape-vine swing in the orchard, and the mill-stream where we fished, and the beech-woods where we had such delightful picnics. I thought it would be so nice for you to do all the same things that made me so happy when I was a child, and go to school in the same old Girls' College and know all the dear old neighbours that I knew. Wouldn't my little girl like that?"

…It was not that she did not enjoy being at her grandmother's. She liked the great gray house whose square corner tower and over­hanging vines made it look like an old castle. She liked the comfort and elegance of the big, stately rooms, and she had her grandmother's own pride in the old family portraits and the beautiful carved furniture. The negro servants seemed so queer and funny to her that she found them a great source of amusement, and her Aunt Allison planned so many pleasant occupations outside of school-hours that she scarcely had time to get lonesome. But she had a shut-in feeling, like a wild bird in a cage, and sometimes the longing for liberty which her mother had allowed her made her fret against the thousand little proprieties she had to observe. Sometimes when she went tipping over the polished floors of the long drawing room, and caught sight of herself in one of the big mirrors, she felt that she was not herself at all, but somebody in a story…

…. Since the boys had come, Virginia had not had a single homesick moment. While she was at school in the primary department of the Girls' College, Malcolm and Keith were reciting their lessons to the old minister who lived across the road from Mrs. MacIntyre's…

As in “Two Little Knights,” the real Edgewood was located across Central Avenue from the Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church. The “old minister” across the road was undoubtedly the Rev. James Curry Randolph, who was living in the manse beside the church from 1892-1899 and was 69 years old when the book was published. There was a mill-stream in the Rollington area, within a few miles of the house, and Annie Fellows Johnston later used the Old Mill as the setting for a picnic in “The Little Colonel’s House Party,” published in 1900. Also real was the old Girls’ College, actually the Kentucky College for Young Ladies on Ashwood (now Ash) Avenue. It later became the setting for “The Little Colonel at Boarding-School,” published in 1903.

Christmas card showing Edgewood’s stone entrance posts on Central Avenue. The Christmas card was
sent out by the Sedleys, who purchased Edgewood and remodeled the interior after Fannie Craig’s
death in 1933. Thanks to Beverly Busch, niece of Mrs. Sedley, for sharing this with us.

While Annie Fellows Johnston describes the fictional Edgewood as having a square corner tower, the real Edgewood was “an imposing two-story L-shaped Italianate house built of masonry brick,” according to “Historic Pewee Valley,” pages 34 and 37.  Her portrayal of the home’s interior, however, is quite accurate, from the stately old rooms, first-floor library and long drawing room to the back staircase and little-used bedroom in the north wing where Keith and Malcolm hid the bear.

At one time, the Craig family owned about 50 acres, bounded roughly by what is now Peace Lane, Central Avenue, Rest Cottage Lane and Woodside. Over the years, the Craig's sold off about half the property, part of it to the owner of Twigmore .  In addition to the house, there were several other structures on their acreage, including a barn, some wooden slave cabins, and two other sites mentioned in “Two Little Knights:” the spring-house near the cabin where Jonesy almost dies during the fire and the spring where Keith and Malcolm tie up Ginger and forget about her during a game of Indian.

Around 1902, Miss Fannie Craig built a school house on the property which served as the new home of the Villa Ridge School.  The school house was demolished around 1988, because it stood in the way of a new housing development. 

Edgewood itself was also slated for demolition to make way for the new Edgewood Manor subdivision.  Thanks to the developer, Gregory Esposito, who agreed to give the house to anyone who would move it, and "die-hard Victorians" David and Donna Russell who actually bore the tremendous expense involved, the house was saved and moved to a nearby  lot over the winter of 1987-88.  The move only covered about 160 feet, but took about six weeks. The Russells restored the house and have been living there ever since. 

1980s views of the house being moved

Edgewood shortly after its move

While the Craig family made Edgewood famous worldwide, its previous owner, newspaper publisher Walter Newman Haldeman , made it somewhat notorious during the Civil War.

click here to continue to page 2 of Edgewood and the Haldeman story >
and ending with views of Edgewood today


Page by Donna Russell, owner of Edgewood