I improved a neighborhood BEFORE it was a neighborhood

10,000 trees.  That is how many I planted in what is now known as The Enclave at Chilesburg.

It was the mid 90s.  Back then Andover Hills was a fairly new neighborhood.  There was a 32 acre parcel that was outside the urban service area.  The developers, Bob Miller and Lynwood Wiseman, decided they would build their own houses on it.

Bob Miller went first.  He had Jose Oubrerie design his house while he was in town serving as Dean of UK’s College of Architecture.  Oubrerie learned a thing or two about architecture from his time with a more recognizable name in architecture, Le Corbusier.



Ok, that is the history of the place before my time planting trees.

Bob Miller was a lawyer.  My dad was a lawyer.  All lawyers know each other because half of them have been partners at one time or another.  Anyway, my dad was good friends with one of his partners and that is how I found out about the job to plant 10,000 trees.

I had seen Bob Miller’s house only from the road.  This was long before Hays Blvd existed.  There was just the little country road over there and it was called Walnut Hill-Chilesburg or something like that.  In the fall and winter, you could see the house from that road.  I had always wondered what it was since it is unlike anything else in Lexington.

Bob gave me the address, which was then on Maple Ridge Road in Andover Hills.  I remember wondering how I was going to plant that many trees on a neighborhood lot-this was before google earth.  I pulled up to a driveway between two houses at the end of the cul de sac and there was a gate.  It opened and I followed the road to the house I had previously only seen from a distance.

I was speechless as I approached the house.  It was a piece of art to me, surrounded by 32 beautiful acres as it’s frame.  There was a pond in front of the house….well, it was really the back of the house but you saw it first as you came down the driveway.

Bob liked trees.  He had made a walking trail all the way around the place, which is now part of the neighborhood.  He wanted to make a forest in the middle.  So, I spent a few weeks randomly planting about 8 different types of saplings all over the field across from his house.

One late afternoon, I took a break and gazed across the land that is now Chilesburg.  I remember thinking that one day, I would bring my kids to see these trees when they were huge.  The trees when they were huge, not my kids.

Another time I was out planting, Lynwood Wiseman came out in his Nissan Pathfinder and gave me a hard time about planting where he was going to build his own house one day.  He drove over most of the freshly planted trees on his way in and out.  I told him I was only doing as I was told and he would need to talk to Bob about it.  Few people disliked Lynwood.  Everybody else hated him.  Lynwood would eventually build his house on the opposite side of the pond from Bob Miller.  It is still there, right in the middle of the neighborhood.  The pond is long gone, filled in to make lots for new houses.

I was in an architectural program at LLC at the time.  I told several students and a few teachers about Bob’s house.  Word got over to the College of Architecture.  Turns out that Bob had involved many students in the designing and building of the house, allowed it to be photographed for various architecture books and magazines…..and then closed the gate once it was all over.  I was the only person those architecture loving people knew who had seen it in person.  I asked Bob if I could take some pictures and make a video of the place.  I did not realize at that time how private he was about the house.  I have always appreciated his kindness to me for that.  The video I made ended up in the UK College of Architecture’s library.  It was a VHS tape.  I sure hope somebody converted it to a DVD.


Those were happy memories for me.  Then there were some unhappy memories of that place.  Bob Miller passed away.  His wife Penny, who was the inspiration for Penny Lane in Andover Hills, sold it to a developer.  That developer went belly up.  The house was vandalized many times.  While it finally did get an owner who appreciates it, it just isn’t the same for me when I see it now.

I did take my kids to see the trees when Ball Homes began to develop the land.  About half of them are gone (the trees, not my kids).  They are about 30 feet tall I guess.  I think of all the people who picked their lot because it backed to the wooded area that I helped create.  I think of how nice it felt the day they were planted, when I was out in a beautiful field, the only sound being the wind passing through trees, and Bob’s house in the corner of my eye.  I also think about the day when somebody backing to my trees calls me up to list their house, and I get to tell them everything you just read.

10 thoughts on “I improved a neighborhood BEFORE it was a neighborhood

  1. Great story, John. I know a current landscape architecture student who will likely find it interesting. Will have to pass it along.

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Great piece John. So now they have almost grown. (The kids, not the trees). And many of your potential clients need to be buying and or selling houses with you so you can send those young folks to college. Good examples run in your family.

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