Since 1976, the Kelton House Museum & Garden became a community service project for the Junior League of Columbus. Today, the Museum offers house tours, special events, and educational opportunities. The Museum provides a training ground for League members and individuals interested in historic preservation, the decorative arts, American History, and museum management.
A Short History of the Kelton Properties
The Kelton House Museum & Garden was originally the home of Fernando Cortez Kelton, a prosperous 19th century merchant, his wife Sophia, and their six children. The house, located at 586 East Town Street, was built in 1852 with elements of the Italianate and Greek Revival styles. At that time, the Kelton home was the last house on East Town Street, which was a single-track dirt road. The street soon developed into one of the city’s finest residential areas. The Keltons’ neighbors included Ohio’s Civil War governor, David Tod, and other prominent citizens.
The home was continuously occupied by three generations of the Keltons. Following the death of Sophia Kelton in 1888, her son, Edwin moved into the home with his wife, Laura, and their children, who ultimately numbered five. Their three unmarried daughters occupied the home until the death of the last surviving daughter, Grace Bird Kelton, in 1975.
Grace Kelton, a nationally known interior designer, worked to retain the original elements of her home, its period furnishings and the family’s history. She was especially proud of her family’s involvement in the Civil War. Her uncle Oscar was a Union officer who was killed in battle, and her grandfather Fernando served as an honorary pallbearer when President Lincoln’s funeral cortege passed through Columbus in April 1865. The house also was a stop on the Underground Railroad, with an amazing history of Martha Hartway.
It was Miss Kelton’s wish that her home be devoted to charitable and educational purposes, specifically, a museum of local history and the decorative arts. Her property was left in trust to the Columbus Foundation to be leased to an appropriate organization. In July, 1976, the Junior League of Columbus assumed responsibility for preserving and developing the Kelton home as a historic center. The restoration of the Kelton House has been a force in effective positive change in Columbus’ center city.
In 2022, the Junior League established the following mission statement for the Kelton House:
The mission of the Kelton House Museum & Garden, operated by the Junior League of Columbus, is to preserve, present, and promote local history, the decorative arts, and the Kelton Family experience with the purpose of educating and enriching the community.
In response to a need for additional space for both the Junior League of Columbus and the Kelton House Museum, the Junior League, in 1988, restored the Kelton properties located behind the Kelton House on Franklin Avenue, which once served as a design studio for Grace Kelton and later for well-known designer Walter Morris. This building, which originally was three separate houses, served as the headquarters of the Junior League of Columbus until 2020. The building is named after JLC major supporters Walter and Marian English.
For more information about the Kelton House, please click here.