This lower and oldest rustic cabin has served as the symbol for the Little Loomhouse for almost 60 years. It is not only an interesting example of its kind of architecture, but it also has a fascinating history. In the late 1860s Beoni Figg acquired this tract of land from the Phillips family. B. Figg had a charcoal business and started a limestone quarry on Kenwood Hill. He built the cabin as an office as well as quarters for his caretakers. It originally consisted of just two rooms with vertical split log siding. The outside wooden stairway leading to the second story was built, according to one of Figg’s daughters, to prevent the caretaker from entering the business office.
Because of business reverses, the cabin was sold in 1876 to Charles W. Gheens, the husband of Figg’s daughter, Mary. It was converted to a summer home for his family. Sam Stone Bush, Secretary of the Kenwood Residential Company, acquired the cabin in the 1890s from the Gheens family and remodeled it again. During one of these remodelings the siding was changed to the board and batten style. Bush also built the other two cabins. All three cabins were used for summer homes.
In 1898, Etta Hest, an artist, purchased the cabin and originated the tradition of it as a center for cultural life in southern Jefferson County. She established an annual Strawberry Festival for artists, writers, and teachers. The Hill sisters, noted kindergarten and music teachers who had a summer cabin up Kenwood Hill, wrote the Happy Birthday song which was first sung in Esta.
The next owner, Mary Wulf, a writer and artist, bought the cabin in 1907 and continued using it for community-oriented events. An early Sunday school class held in this cabin led to the founding of St. Mark Lutheran Church on Southside Drive. Mrs. Wulff held special gatherings to which she invited Kentucky artists, poets, and writers, as well as neighboring residents who had built summer log cabins on the hillside. She always included children in these parties. Tate said her first acquaintance with the cabin was during such a visit. It was during Mrs. Wulff’s time that the cabin was named Esta, which is said to be an old Norse saying meaning, “May God’s presence be in this dwelling.”
In 1939, Tate’s mother purchased the property from Mary Wulff’s estate as a retirement home and space for Tate’s weaving business. Sadly, her mother died shortly thereafter. Tate inherited the property and lived and worked there for the rest of her life.
The cabin soon became a gathering place for weavers and those interested in learning to weave. Through the years Esta has had many distinguished visitors. In the 1940s, Eleanor Roosevelt paid a visit. As she entered the cabin her foot went through a loose board. After noticing a number of other boards, which had been initialed, she asked for paint and a brush and added her name. This bit of history has long ago disappeared.
Today Esta Cabin is used to illustrate some of the Little Loomhouse history. The first floor has a historic display featuring the life and career of Lou Tate as well as examples of weaving and spinning artifacts and equipment.
The upstairs, not open to the public, contains our onsite library and archives. Lou Tate’s numbered patterns, weaving information, photos, and letters written by Lou Tate are stored off-site in a climate-controlled vault.