Mini portraits taken from Liberty Hall
The Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Miniature portraits of Kentucky’s first U.S. senator and his wife have been stolen from Liberty Hall, a historic building that was once the couple’s home.
Portraits marking the 1799 wedding of John and Margaretta Brown were stolen from a display case at the historic site over the weekend, said Karla Nicholson, Liberty Hall’s executive director. The portraits are believed to have been taken between late Friday afternoon and Saturday morning before the first tour, Nicholson said.
“They’re very unique, very special to us, and to most of the world, they probably have less of a historical value than they have to us,” Nicholson said. “They are difficult ones to lose.”
The home, which dates back to 1796, is located on the Kentucky River banks in downtown Frankfort. A nearby home owned by John Brown’s second son, the Orlando Brown House, dates back to 1835, according to a statement.
Currently, the houses are open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays from spring to fall.
The portrait thefts were first reported by The State Journal.
Calls to the Frankfort Police Department regarding the portraits were not returned Tuesday.
Nicholson said the portraits are unique to the museum and are believed to have been painted in New York. They were passed down through four generations before being donated to the museum.
“The value on them probably depends on where they’re offered and what someone is willing to pay for them,” Nicholson said. “Of course, they’re more valuable to us as a piece of history than they would be as anonymous miniature portraits.”
Brown was Kentucky’s first senator and thought to be one of the most important early leaders of Kentucky, Nicholson said. He also represented Kentucky in Virginia before Kentucky became a state, and he was a member of the Continental Congress, Nicholson said.
Professor James C. Klotter, a Georgetown College history professor and Kentucky’s state historian, said Brown was among the state’s second generation of political leaders. Brown helped change Kentucky from a wilderness into a commonwealth and had influence beyond the political offices he held, Klotter said.
Historic homes typically try to have as much material as possible from the people who once lived there, Klotter said. Liberty Hall has “a pretty good collection,” Klotter said.
“Anything that’s lost, that’s gone, it’s going to end up taking away from its history,” Klotter said. “If those never surface again, you can’t tell the story the same way.”