Belle’s Birthday Ball — June 18th!


LEXINGTON, KY. — The Lexington History Museum will hold its first major fundraising event on Thursday, June 18, from 5-8 p.m. at the Museum (215 W. Main St.).

Titled “Belle’s Birthday Ball,” the event will have two components: a FREE entertainment venue coinciding with Thursday Night Live in Cheapside Park, and a by-admission-only event inside the Museum. The latter will feature a “Taste of Cheapside” sampling of the fare from area restaurants and nightspots.

The event is a lighthearted nod to Lexington’s famous madam, Belle Brezing, who was the model for the character of Belle Watling in Gone with the Wind. She served in or operated several Lexington houses, 1879-1917. She retired a wealthy woman. Upon her death in 1947, TIME magazine noted she operated “the most order of disorderly houses.”

In Cheapside, the fun begins shortly after 5 p.m., when “Belle’s Girls” arrive by horse drawn carriage, courtesy of Lexington Livery. The Girls will be on hand throughout the evening, telling tales of Belle and accepting donations to the Museum, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.

Belle, herself, will also be on hand during band breaks in Cheapside to tell her story: from the fateful Christmas Eve when, as a destitute and homeless young mother, she made her decision to “join the trade” in the house that had been Mary Todd Lincoln’s childhood home, to her first house on North Upper (now, Transylvania University’s women’s field house), to her retirement as a wealthy businesswoman. (Belle had an eye for talent of all types: she employed a young John Jacob Niles to sing to her girls on Christmas mornings. He went on the sing in Carnegie Hall.)

Inside the Museum, a “Taste of Cheapside” and cash bar will be available for Museum patrons on an admission basis. The cost in advance is $40 per person, $75 per couple. At the door, the cost is $50 and $100 respectively. Decorations will recall the Victorian opulence that characterized Belle’s famous “House on the Hill,” including period furniture on loan from Heritage Antiques.

Patrons may have their picture taken with Belle in a special setting for a nominal fee of $5. In Cheapside, a backdrop featuring a photograph of Belle’s parlor will be available for souvenir photos with Belle for the same charge.

Invitations have been mailed to the Museum’s lists, but are also available online at Attendees are encouraged to contribute a “birthday present” for Belle. These range from a $25 case of Weidemann Beer to a $5,000 Governor’s Pardon. Weidemann and other items on the gift card represent local products and enterprises that are no longer in business. In 1883, Kentucky Gov. Luke Blackburn pardoned Belle from a charge of “keeping a bawdy house.”

Patrons at the inside event will receive a satin gift bag (limited to the first 75 couples) containing a copy of the pardon, a copy of Belle’s December 1890 liquor invoice, a copy of a booklet published by local historian William H. Townsend entitled “The Most Orderly of Disorderly Houses” (long out of print), and other treats from the era.

Located at 215 W. Main St., The Lexington History Museum is open weekly Friday-Monday, Noon-4 p.m.; open early Saturdays at 10 a.m. Admission is free. For more information call 859-254-0530 or visit

The Lexington History Museum engages all people in the discovery and interpretation of the history of Lexington, Ky., and the Bluegrass Region.


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