The Retirement Home of Senator John Pope

Retirement house of Sen. John Pope in Springfield, Kentucky. Author’s Collection.

One of Lexington’s finest landmarks is the Pope Villa which was designed by Benjamin Latrobe for Senator John Pope and his wife Eliza. The senator sold Pope Villa in 1829 after President Jackson appointed Pope to serve as the territorial governor of Arkansas.

John Pope. Congress.

Departed for the Gem State, Pope would serve as governor until 1835. While in Arkansas, he brought in Kentucky architect Gideon Shryock to design the state capitol for Arkansas. The old capitol remains standing as the oldest state capitol (albeit no longer used as the capitol) west of the Mississippi River and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

After his governorship, Pope returned to the Commonwealth and retired to Springfield, Kentucky, in 1835. Eliza had died in 1818 and Pope remarried in 1820 to a widow from Washington County. In Springfield, Pope returned both to the practice of law and elected office including serving in Congress from 1837-1843.

Retirement house of Sen. John Pope in Springfield, Kentucky. Author’s Collection.

Pope’s retirement home in Springfield is unlike his historic Lexington home designed by LaTrobe. The biggest similarity among the two is that when each was constructed, the residences were built on the edges of town but are today located in dense residential areas.

In the case of Pope’s retirement home, 207 Walnut Street in Springfield, the home was built in 1839 by designer-builder John Riley. The lack of a prominent architect accounts for “the relatively conservative style of the house” as suggested in the National Register application (PDF). Built as a one-and-a-half-story brick building, [the home has] the usual four rooms on both
stories, each with a fireplace served by the two projecting chimneys at the ends of the
main block.”

While common in lesser homes of the era, especially those with multiple tenants, the dual front doors of the home are quite unique. It is thought that this would facilitate a separate entrance to Pope’s library and office.

A service ell on the rear of the building was quite typical, though the design was conceptually distasteful to the architect of Pope’s Villa in Lexington.

The historic marker outside of Pope’s retirement residence reads

Eminent Washington Co. citizen. Brilliant Kentucky lawyer, statesman. Born, Va. Represented Shelby Co., 1802, Fayette Co., 1806, in Leg.; U.S. Senate, 1807-13; Ky. Sec. of State, 1816-19; Ky. Sen., 1825-29; Gov. Arkansas Ter., 1829-35, named by Pres. Jackson; U.S. Congress, 1837-43. Federalist and Democrat. Built this home, 1839. Died here; buried in Springfield Cemetery.

Noting Pope to only have served as a Federalist and Democrat, the historic marker doesn’t acknowledge Pope’s later identity as a Whig. As a Whig, Pope was thrice elected to Congress from Springfield.

John Pope died here on July 12, 1845.