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If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, then Cherry Settle must have a claim on her husband Tommy’s heart for the next millennium.
The couple’s beautiful 144-year-old antebellum-style home on Shelbyville Road, where they have resided for the past four decades and raised their two children, Jennifer and Tommy Jr., was the former residence of Col. Harland Sanders and his wife, Claudia.
And while changes occur over forty years, the Settles could never change one thing that helped launch an American icon.
“He [Col. Sanders] put this stove in here when he moved in the house in 1959, and he would have the franchisees stay in the different bedrooms, and he’d train them how to cook,” said Cherry Settle, while petting the 58-year-old South Bend stove in the kitchen. The commercial stove sports seven gas burners, a grill and two ovens.
Settle grew nostalgic talking about Sanders, who she said had been like a father to her.
“I worked as national sales hostess for Kentucky Fried Chicken, and he and Claudia just became [my] good friends,” she said. “He gave me away when I got married because my father died when I was real young, and he and Claudia are godparents to our oldest child, our son. They sold the restaurant [Claudia Sanders Dinner House] to us first, so we bought the restaurant, and later, we bought the house. They moved out and we moved in, on the same day, Aug. 1, 1974.”
The house has become well known because of its affiliation with Claudia Sanders Dinner House, located on Shelbyville Road just east of Simpsonville.
The house is known as Blackwood Hall and is reputed to have been named after the Nancy Drew book, The Ghost of Blackwood Hall, so dubbed by the colonel himself, Settle said.
The stately two-story, white structure, which sits on four acres in front of the restaurant, features an elegant, sculpted garden that is often used for weddings, including that of the Settles’ own daughter, Jennifer.
And that elegance spills over into the home, starting in the front hallway, which is adorned by a hugged gilded mirror and chandelier that illuminates the sweeping curved staircase.
A white grand piano overlooks a large picture window in the living room.
Continuing on into the dining room, a Lazy Susan that used to grace the dining table at the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion is on the Settle’s table.
Cherry Settle said she doesn’t have any particular favorite feature of the house; she just likes everything about it, she said.
“It’s just home,” she said.
Even though she and her husband have added their own personal touches through the years – such as bringing the piano from a restaurant that Tommy Settle owned in Louisville called The Palms, as well as the huge mirror he got from an estate called Box Hill – they still make sure that traces of colonel remain a part of their home, not only by keeping the his stove but also adorning its top shelf with KFC memorabilia.
Two chickens flank a bust of the colonel, and there is also a small statue of him wearing his famous white suit.
A location on the stove is only appropriate, Settle said, as the colonel and his wife relocated to Shelbyville to have a more central location to train cooks to prepare Kentucky Fried Chicken with it secret blend of herbs and spices.
That stove, which fills the house with smells of good country cooking, is also a tie to family, which Settle said is what makes house a home.
Said Cherry Settles, pointing to a pile of toys belonging to grandchildren under a table in the living room.
“Family is what we’re all about,” she said.
Address: 3200 Shelbyville Road
Owners:Tommy and Cherry Settle
Statistics:2 stories, 10 rooms, 4 baths
Accoutrements:Col. Harland Sanders’ original stove, which he installed when he bought the house in 1959, still remains. He used the stove to train his cooks, and the Settles continue to use it everyday.