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Beyond the gates of Undulata

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Behind Shelby’s doors, A monthly series:

By Todd Martin

“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man who lives in it so that his place will be proud of him.”

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—    Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln’s words hang inside Edward “Hoppy” Bennett’s office and resonate throughout the grounds of Undulata.

Bennett bought the famous old home at auction in 1994 after it had fallen into some disrepair.

From that time he painstakingly has restored the home to reflect its grand days when Col. Harry Weissinger and his family moved in during early 1900s.

“It’s history,” Bennett said. “You have to know where you came from to learn where you’re going. Preserving our history is vital.”

And to Bennett this home is even more than just a standing monument to turn-of-the-century-life in Shelby County.

“Weissinger was on one of the first board of directors for the American Saddlebred Association when the registry started,” he said. “That board started in 1891 or 1892, and he was on it not long after that. He started what I do.”

Bennett is one of the most successful Saddlebred owners and trainers in Shelby County, The Saddlebred Capital of the World.

“To me, that’s important. I don’t know if it is to other people, but to me it is,” he said.

Originally about 3,000 acres and stretching to Mount Eden Road and including the barn that now serves as Weissinger Hills Golf Course’s club house, Undulata, which means rolling hills, now stands at about 92 acres and is part of Bennett’s three-farm horse operation, which includes about 160 horses.

The house sits tucked back behind gates that the New History of Shelby County calls “some of the finest iron work in the county,” but what lies behind is no secret.

Shelby County Tourism brought more than 7,000 visitors through the house last year, and Bennett has hosted countless fundraisers and events in his home and barns, including the Shelbyville Horse Show Jubilee Breakfast kickoff and countless political fundraisers.

“I kind of feel like it belongs to the community,” he said, “not only because it’s interesting but because it gives us a chance to educate them about the horse industry. All this is in a love of the Saddlebred horse.”

In fact, all 22 posters from the Shelbyville Horse Show’s history are framed and hanging on the third floor.

Although the house boasts 23 rooms, 6 bathrooms and dozens of antiques — including a 1918 piano from the Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church on Brownsboro Road — it’s the library, a small room off the grand entryway, and the kitchen that Bennett likes best.

“I’m a country boy,” he said. “Everybody gathers in the kitchen.”

The most recently redone room, the kitchen, also displays a couple of the most interesting items that remain from the old home. The remains of the servant system still hangs on the wall. Guests would push a button to alert servants that they were needed in areas of the home.

The hood over the stove is the original but had to be trimmed a little before the iron giant with intricate roaring lions was reconnected to the original brick wall.

“It almost killed me to let them cut it, but it looks great,” Bennett said.

Inside stuff

Address:1600 Zaring Mill Road, Shelbyville

Owner:Edward “Hoppy” Bennett.

Statistics:11,000 square feet, three stories and a full basement, 23 rooms, 6 bathrooms,

Architecture:Neoclassical, brick with white shutters and columns

Built:1895-1903 by L.H. Gruber and Sons for Col. Harry Weissinger

Ennui:Bennett bought the home at auction in 1994 and has restored it to its grand origins. Most of the 23 rooms have chandeliers in them, although some are small. And although the one in the dinning room is the largest, the one in the entrance is the only original. There are also several other residences still on the grounds that are used for farm hands and visitors.

More photos

To see more photos, check the slideshow.