The Besten & Dieruf, PLLC offices are located in the historic Ridgely House in the Gratz Park area of downtown Lexington. Built in 1794 by Dr. Fredrick Ridgely, the house which through the years has carried his name, is the oldest house in the historic Gratz Park area. The builder and the first owner was the founder of old Transylvania University’s Medical School, co-owner of Lexington’s first large apothecary and one of the city’s early real estate developers.
In 1799 the house was leased to millionaire John Wesley Hunt, grandfather of Confederate Cavalry General John Hunt Morgan. Hunt lived in the house until he moved to the new house he built at 201 North Mill (now known as the Morgan House). With the expiration of Hunt’s lease, the property was purchased by Dr. Elisha Warfield, local physician and breeder.
Another Ridgely house resident was Major Thomas Bodley, a veteran of the War of 1812. He moved from the Ridgely house to the Bodley house located on the northeast corner of Second and Market. Thomas Hart Pindell, who had built Bodley house, switched houses with Major Bodley, moving to Ridgely house which he sold in 1815 to Dr. John D. Clifford.
It was Clifford’s brother-in-law, Rev. John Ward, Episcopal rector of Christ Church, who operated the Shelby Female Academy in the Ridgely house. In 1863, the school, usually referred to as Ward’s Academy, was attended by Mary Todd, later to become the wife of Abraham Lincoln. Mary was about eight years old when she entered the Academy…at fourteen years of age, Mary Todd finished the preparatory course at Doctor Ward’s …his school numbered about one hundred twenty boys and girls from the best families in Lexington.
Records of more recent history indicate that the house was known for many years as the home of the Berryman family. The house was remodeled in 1946 as a medical office building, which purpose it served until its purchase by the Christian Church in Kentucky.