The spirit of Mrs. JP Speed is pleased with the pristine state of
her mansion, and doesn’t mind sharing it!
She remembers all the fine events of culture
and still adores her treasured belonging.
WOW! This immense, glorious, three-story brick mansion has a grand presence, sitting on its huge lot, in pristine condition, surrounded by its beautifully landscaped grounds, which also sports a patriotic horse statue. (A variety of painted horse statues are present throughout the city of Louisville as of 2008.)
When a law firm buys a property to open an office there, it is usually looking pretty good by the time the office opens, which is fortunate for the purchased property. This was the case for the JP Speed House, which is in fine shape, but not open for public viewing.
While the Speed Mansion has had some interior changes in the process of becoming a law office, its beauty is still front and center. It features high ceilings, lovely woodwork, marble and stone, fireplaces, fancy ceiling decorations as well as other fixtures and design perks of the early 20th century era.
This sprawling, Victorian-Gothic home was built in 1885, in the oldest neighborhood of Louisville by a well known local home contractor, Dexter Belknap, who moved his family in when he was done. In 1893, the James P. Speed family bought the home and moved in to enjoy its 48 rooms and 20 fireplaces. When the first Mrs. James Speed died, James married Miss Hattie Bishop, a prominent society lady of Louisville, who was a concert pianist, music teacher, humanist, and philanthropist. Harriet was a huge promoter and supporter of music and the arts in Louisville.
After James died in 1912, she had a large, elegant recital hall/music room built at the back of the mansion, complete with a stage area, comfortable seats, high, metal stamped ceilings and lovely chandeliers. Harriet made good use of this music hall. She played on her case piano on the stage, and opened up the room for community concerts and recitals for the local Bach Club and other groups, all of which she attended, until she died in 1942.
She also established The Speed Art Museum and the Hattie Bishop Speed Music Room Trust, which has funded a 60 year run of the Hattie Bishop Speed Endowed Concert Series. This series has presented some of the world’s finest classical musicians, from well-known performers to rising stars, performed at the University of Louisville School of Music, Comstock Hall.
In the process of transforming the mansion into a law firm, the new owners enclosed the stage area with glass walls for a conference room, and kept has the concord piano, eventually turning it into an electric player piano. The old recital hall is now used as a lounge area, and has a “tiered landing system”, so desks and bookcases could become part of the room, beneath the lovely chandeliers.
The happy, pleasant entity of Harriet Bishop Speed has chosen to spend her afterlife in not only her art museum, but also her home, near her cherished piano, while perhaps reliving the many concerts she so enjoyed in the recital hall. She doesn’t seem to mind the structural changes made by the current owners.
The hallway leading to the recital hall:
The apparition of an older woman dressed up for an evening, complete with jewelry, has been seen floating out of the old powder room under the stairs, making her way down the hall to the old music recital area.
The recital hall:
This entity has also been seen sitting at her piano and sitting in the lobby area as well.
Piano music has been faintly heard, wafting all over the mansion, coming from an unknown source.
Harriet seems to be pleased with the pristine state of her mansion, and still enjoys not only its ambiance and beauty, but also her beloved music room and piano!
While no official paranormal investigations have been conducted here, author David Domine has gathered some witness reports, which can be found in his wonderful book, Phantoms of Old Louisville.
505 West Ormsby Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40203
The JP Speed House, currently the home of the law offices of Franklin and Hance, PSC, is located on the corner of West Ormsby and Garvin Place, just south of West Oak Street, between South 6th Street and South 4th Street.
- Hattie Bishop Speed (1858-1942) Collection
- Harriet Bishop Speed: Museum Founder, Musician, and Philanthropist
- Phantoms of Old Louisville
By David Domine
McClanahan Publishing House, 2006
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr