Riverview, the name given to the Italianate home of Atwood and Juliet "Julia" VanMeter Hobson, was so named because of its proximity to the Barren River. Construction of the hilltop home began in the late 1850s, but was temporarily halted by the Civil War. Bowling Green was the Confederate capital of Kentucky for a short time. Because Atwood Hobson was a staunch Union supporter and his eldest son, William, had been made a Colonel in the Union Army at age 17, the family was concerned about Riverview and the 400 acres of farm surrounding it. The commanding officer of the Confederate troops, Simon Bolivar Buckner, who had fought with Atwood's brother, Edward, in the Mexican-American War, agreed to spare the partially built house. His troops built a temporary roof over the basement and filled it with munitions during their occupation in the winter of 1861-1862. Riverview was completed in 1872 and became the centerpiece of the Hobson's horse and cattle farm.
Painted by Margaret Hobson
It is not known who designed Riverview, but it is very reminiscent of the buildings of Adolphus Heimann, a prominent Nashville, Tennessee architect in the years leading to the Civil War. The house has approximately 5,000 square feet.
Three of the Hobson children, Jonathan, Joseph and Mollie, never married and lived at Riverview most of their lives. George, the youngest son, married Anna Perkins and lived in the house from 1912 until 1950. George lovingly taught his daughter George Anna trap shooting, and at age 16 she won the Ladies National Trapshooting Championship held in 1924 at Vandalia, Ohio. She won state titles, was nationally recognized, and even did advertising for the Ithica Gun Company. After marriage, she showed American Saddlebred horses. After Anna died in July 1950, George stayed in the house until November or December 1950 when he moved into a nursing home, after a vandal threw a pipe bomb into the farm office. An auction dispensed most of the original furnishings not retained by the family. After almost a century of ownership, the home was sold out of the Hobson family. At least five families rented the house between 1950 and 1965.
During the rental period two fires occurred in the house - the last in 1965 - causing the house to be left abandoned to decay. The City of Bowling Green acquired the property at that time in order to build the golf course, paying $1.00 for the house, which was slated for demolition. In 1966 the Hobson House Association was formed by local concerned citizens as a private, non-profit organization to restore the house and operate it as a museum.
After extension restoration Riverview opened to the public in 1972 and is interpreted to the 1860-1890 time period. The house is listed in the National Register and is an official site of the Civil War Discovery Trail. The structure and its furnishings represent those of a prosperous Victorian family living in south central Kentucky. Riverview did not have live-in servants.
Riverview is a classic example of Italianate architecture and is considered one of the finest examples in Kentucky. Riverview includes three distinct features which classify it as Italianate: rounded arches at the top of all exterior windows, deep eaves around the roof line with ornamental brackets, and the cupola on the top of the house. Riverview has other unique architectural and structural features. An itinerant artist, Fritz Lieber, painted the ceilings in the two downstairs parlors about the time the house was completed. They were restored to their original design in the early 1970's. An early "green" feature by Atwood Hobson includes an innovative system of water retention and recycling using the guttering and a cistern in the attic originally provided water to the upstairs water closet.
Beneath the cupola on top of the house is a hole in the floor, sometimes called an oculus, a part of the ventilation system of the house and another of Atwood Hobson's "green" innovations. Open windows and doors create a vacuum, pulling the hot air up and out of the house, keeping the air continuously circulating. It works much as an attic fan would work in a home today.
In 1966 the City of Bowling Green received a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant in the amount equal to 50 percent of the actual cost of the project, or $60,000.00, whichever was less, and this was used to begin the restoration of the house. Then in 1970, the City of Bowling Green received a Historic Preservation Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the amount of $53,500.00 for restoration of the Hobson House, grounds, gardens, paths, fences, gates, plants, and outdoor furniture, as well as furnishing the house with furniture donated by interested organizations and individuals. The City of Bowling Green currently owns the house and grounds while the Friends of Riverview organization owns the house contents and is the fundraising arm of the operation of the museum. The support of staff and volunteers allows Riverview to educate the public with tours, lectures, special events, and other activities throughout the year.
We would like your participation!
Do you have any special memories about Riverview at Hobson Grove? Maybe you attended a wedding or special event here. Help us celebrate this lovely house by reliving its history and charm. Come to Riverview and share your story and pictures with us in person, send us an email or on our Facebook page. We would love to hear from you!
Mission Statement for the Hobson House Commission
The Hobson House Commission is charged by ordinance of the City of Bowling Green to operate and maintain the city-owned Hobson House facility as a historical attraction dedicated to the preservation of and education about the 1860-1890 time period. The Commission and its sister non-profit group, the Hobson House Association (dba the Friends of Riverview), seek to interpret the history of the site--the Civil War and Victorian periods; to own property; to publish materials; to conduct educational programs; to increase public awareness; and to do whatever else is worthwhile to achieve these objectives.