The Glen Willis House

Limewater is located at The Glen Willis House. The property became part of the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and has witnessed just a few centuries of American history.

Glen Willis sits on the banks of the Kentucky River. The presently red brick house, is pictured here painted white .

The above photograph shows Glen Willis before Wilkinson Boulevard existed. Today, the highway cuts through several feet in front of the building. Our neighbor’s to the right, Jim’s Seafood, was the site of the Kentucky River Mills hemp factory. It was the last hemp factory to operate in Kentucky closing in 1952 (courtesy of Jim’s Seafood).

The Beginnings

The land’s first home was built by Willis Atwell Lee Jr. in 1793. Lee Jr. named the double, two-story log house “Glen,” as in a low valley, “Willis.” It was updated to a brick building in 1815. Before the land was a residential property, it was the site of Leestown Fort. Leestown, founded by Lee Jr.’s father, predates Frankfort and even appears on the first map of Kentucky.

The Politician

Humphrey Marshall purchased Glen Willis from the Lee family in 1832. Marshall played many influential roles in early Kentucky history. He was a revolutionary soldier, a Kentucky Legislator, a U.S. Senator, an author of one of the earliest histories of Kentucky, and dueled against Henry Clay over a political disagreement. Before his death in 1841, Marshall asked to be buried somewhere by the “old house.”

The Merchant Prince

Glen Willis was purchased by Henry Harrison Murray in 1841. Nicknamed Kentucky’s “Merchant Prince,” Murray traded spices, linens, and laces from Asia, Ireland, France, and Belgium. Having traveled around the world, his ships entered the Mississippi River at New Orleans and made their way through the Ohio and Kentucky Rivers to dock in Frankfort. During Murray’s ownership, Glen Willis was remodeled to its present appearance.

The Twentieth Century

Ownership of Glen Willis stayed in the Murray family well into the next century. In fact, James A. Murray was its owner in the 1970s when the property was entered into the historic register. Below the Murray family is pictured at Glen Willis with their ponies in 1915.

Source: National Register of Historic Places.

4 responses to “The Glen Willis House”

  1. I truly believe that the Limewater Bistro will continue to enhance the amazing history of this beautiful home and property on the Kentucky River in Frankfort. Looking forward to your opening soon. You have my “Best Wishes”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! We can’t wait to see you there!


  2. My mom, sister and i are the ones who updated and restored the Glen Willis. We opened a tea room and gift shop that my sister ran. I’d love to send you our menu and history.


    1. Hi Lesia, we heard about the tea room. It sounded lovely! We would love to see your menu and history. Email me at


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