Please note that this text-only version, provided
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Essay on Athens of the West
Essay on Civil War
Essay on Architecture
Essay on Lexington Preservation
List of Sites
Begin the Tour
The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places,
Kentucky Department of Travel, Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation,
Transylvania University, Kentucky Heritage Council, and the National
Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO) proudly
invite you to explore Lexington, Kentucky: The Athens of the
West. Located in the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass region,
Lexington has a long history as a cultural, political and social
center and today is characterized by beautiful residential neighborhoods,
vital 19th-century commercial districts, and the tranquil rolling
hills of horse country. This latest National Register of Historic
Places Travel itinerary illustrates the transformation of the
city from a small town established as a gateway to the western
frontier in 1775, to a bustling center of economic, intellectual,
and political activity. More than 100 of Lexington's historic
places are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
This itinerary highlights 29 of those historic places that convey
the story of Lexington's charm, development and renewed interest
in this city's sense of the past.
Lexington was first settled during the Revolutionary War, and
was a small frontier post that grew rapidly into a regional trading
center. During the 19th century, Lexington's economy boomed due
to a strong manufacturing industry supported by local hemp farms
whose crops were locally manufactured into rope. Evidence of this
prosperity can be seen not only in the commercial districts that
developed during this period, such as the Downtown
and Victorian Commercial Districts, but also
in the grand mansions built for individuals like John
Wesley Hunt and his son, Francis Key Hunt.
Lexington society also blossomed, especially after the establishment
of Transylvania University and the surrounding
Gratz Park Historic District. By the turn of
the 20th century, residential neighborhoods were spreading to
the edges of the city such as the Athens, Constitution,
or South Hill historic districts.
Lexington, Kentucky: The Athens of the West offers several
ways to discover the historic properties that played important
roles in the city's past. Each highlighted property features a
brief description of the place's significance; color and, where
available, historic photographs; and public accessibility information.
At the bottom of each page the visitor will find a navigation
bar containing links to four essays that explain more about early
days of the Athens of the West, Civil
War, Architecture and Lexington
Preservation. These essays provide historic background, or
"contexts," for many of the places included in the itinerary.
The itinerary can be viewed online, or printed out if you plan
to visit Lexington in person.
Created through a partnership between the National Park Service's
National Register of Historic Places, Kentucky Department of Travel,
Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation, Transylvania University,
Kentucky Heritage Council, and NCSHPO, Lexington, Kentucky:
The Athens of the West is the latest example of a
new and exciting cooperative project. As part of the Department
of the Interior's strategy to revitalize communities by promoting
public awareness of history and encouraging tourists to visit
historic places throughout the nation, the National Register of
Historic Places is cooperating with communities, regions and heritage
areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries.
Using places listed in the National Register of Historic Places,
the itineraries help potential visitors plan their next trip by
highlighting the amazing diversity of the country's historic places
and supplying accessibility information for each featured site.
In the Learn More section, the itineraries
link to regional and local web sites that provide visitors with
further information regarding cultural events, special activities,
lodging and dining possibilities, as well as histories of the
Lexington is the 13th of more than 30 partners working directly
with the National Register of Historic Places to create travel
itineraries. Additional itineraries will debut online in the future.
The National Register of Historic Places and the Kentucky Department
of Travel hope you enjoy this virtual travel itinerary of the
city's historic places. If you have comments or questions please
just click on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions"
located at the bottom of each page.
Dear Internet Visitor:
Welcome to Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky. Known as the "Horse Capital of the World" we are home to Keeneland Race Course, a world-renowned racetrack and National Historic Landmark which exemplifies the importance of the horse racing industry to our region and the prominent role it plays in the history of central Kentucky.
Lexington's rich history includes many people and places of regional and national interest, including the homes of Henry Clay and Mary Todd Lincoln. Our city has historic associations with nationally-known architects as well. Benjamin Henry Latrobe, architect of the United States Capitol, designed the Pope Villa. Loudoun House is an excellent example of Gothic Revival styling as interpreted by Andrew Jackson Davis. Lexington's landscaped areas and neighborhoods also have national associations including the Frederick Law Olmstead-designed Ashland Park Historic Neighborhood. Another one of our historic jewels is the beauty and peacefulness of the Lexington Cemetery, which is a nationally-recognized example of the mid-19th-century national landscape movement.
Lexington is a growing city of the future which is committed to preserving its past. In addition to the 24 urban and rural National Register districts and over 100 individual listings, our city has addressed the issue of preservation at the local level. The first local historic district in Lexington was established in 1958 with 12 more having been added since then. Covering all aspects of Lexington's diverse and rich history, these districts are protected at the local level by the Board of Architectural Review. This board has been entrusted with the task of preserving our architectural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations.
Lexington is a special and unique city that blends the best of our history with the best of our countryside beauty, and the excitement and activity of a cosmopolitan area filled with urban charm. Whether your interests are in urban historic districts, open farmland, or National Historic landmarks in the Bluegrass Region, Lexington has something to offer everyone and we hope to see you very soon.
Teresa Ann Isaac
of the West
Lexington has a long and important history. Located in the heart
of the Bluegrass the city and its citizens have been involved
in world affairs politically, economically, and culturally. The
history of Lexington dates back more than two centuries and the
founding of the town is congruent with the founding of the nation.
In 1775 William McConnell and his fellow frontiersman were camped
on the outskirts of the current city at what has since become
known as McConnell Springs. While encamped
at this location the pioneers received word of the "shots heard
round the world" and the first battle of the American Revolutionary
War at Lexington, Massachusetts. They then named the settlement
in honor of this monumental event. Lexington soon became one of
the first permanent settlements on the frontier. The town consisted
of nothing more than a stockade with the citizens' cabins within
the walls. The frontier, at this time, remained a dangerous place
and early settlers clashed with the indigenous American Indians.
At the time Kentucky was not yet a state but territory within
the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 1780 the Virginia General Assembly
divided Kentucky County into three separate entities including
Fayette, Lincoln, and Jefferson counties. Lexington was deemed
the "capital" of Fayette County. In April 1782 the town
inhabitants officially petitioned the Virginia General Assembly
to become a town. At this point Lexington was transformed from
the rough, wild settlement of years past into the community that
would soon become known as "the Athens of the West."
Many institutions, events, and people contributed to Lexington
being designated the "Athens of the West" in the poem:
"But Lexington will ever be,
The Loveliest and the Best;
A Paradise thou'rt still to me,
Sweet Athens of the West."
Josiah Espy upon his visit to Lexington in 1806 described the
city in the following way attesting to its splendor as a frontier
"Lexington is the largest and most wealthy town in Kentucky,
or indeed west of the Allegheny Mountains; the main street of
Lexington has all the appearance of Market Street in Philadelphia
on a busy day ... I would suppose it contains about five hundred
dwelling houses [it was closer to three hundred], many of them
elegant and three stories high. About thirty brick buildings
were then raising, and I have little doubt but that in a few
years it will rival, not only in wealth, but in population,
the most populous inland town of the United States . . . The
country around Lexington for many miles in every direction,
is equal in beauty and fertility to anything the imagination
can paint and is already in a high state of cultivation."
Epsy in his observations was correct in predicting the future
of Lexington. The city would grow to a town of considerable size.
Lexington experienced many notable occurrences in the period
1800 to 1833 during which time it became an intellectual and religious
center. The first institute of higher learning west of the Alleghenies
was established in nearby Danville in 1780 and moved to Lexington
in 1789. Transylvania University has remained
in Lexington since 1789 and is prominently known as "The Tutor
to the West." John Bradford, an early Lexingtonian, published
the first newspaper of the West in Lexington. The first
library in Kentucky was founded here in 1795. Many religious
organizations were founded in Lexington that became firsts for
the state and in some cases the west. Christ Church
Episcopal was founded in 1796 and was the first Episcopal
congregation west of the Allegheny Mountains. Walnut
Hill Presbyterian Church is the oldest Presbyterian Church
building in Kentucky, built in 1801. Another important congregation
in Lexington is the First African Baptist Church.
This congregation was founded in 1790 and is the third oldest
Baptist congregation of African Americans in the United States
and the oldest in Kentucky.
Lexington has also served as a major economic center throughout
its 225-year history. During the early 19th century, Lexington
was a major manufacturing center. Most of this manufacturing centered
on hemp production. The hemp was grown on area farms and then
manufactured into rope on the many "rope walks" or rope factories
within the city limits. John Wesley Hunt an area businessman made
his fortune in the hemp and mercantile business, making him the
first millionaire west of the Allegheny Mountains. With this fortune
he constructed his mansion, Hopemont (the Hunt-Morgan
House). Lexington also became an important trade center because
of its central location to numerous smaller towns whose citizens
traveled to the city for imported goods. During the 20th century
much of the money from the Eastern Kentucky coal industry passed
through Lexington and helped foster further growth. The Downtown
and the North Limestone commercial districts
are living testaments to the city's importance as a trading center.
Politically, Lexington has been actively involved in affairs
of the nation. Henry Clay, United States Senator and three time
presidential candidate began his political career in a small
office on Mill Street and resided at his mansion, Ashland,
when not in Washington on business. Furthermore, Mary
Todd Lincoln, wife of President Abraham Lincoln, spent her
childhood years in Lexington and grew up in the house of her father
on West Main Street. John Cabell Breckinridge, vice president
under President James Buchanan also hailed from Lexington and
a monument honors him on the courthouse lawn. During the Civil
War Lexington was controlled by both Union and Confederate factions.
The Union forces used the campus of Transylvania University and
were headquartered at the Bodley-Bullock House
while the Confederate sympathizers used the neighboring Hunt-Morgan
Lexington continues to be of great importance as the second
largest city in the state of Kentucky and the "Horse Capital of
the World." Every year thousands flock to Keeneland
to view the annual horse races and to purchase thoroughbreds at
its annual horse sales. During the 20th century the city has seen
rapid growth and the city limits continue to grow. This rapid
growth began around the turn of the the century and many early
20th-century residential neighborhoods, such as the Ashland
Park Historic District and the Bell Court Historic
Neighborhood District , were built to accommodate this population
growth. As we enter the 21st century, Lexington's future continues
to looks bright.
War in Lexington
When news reached
Lexington, Kentucky of the attack on Fort Sumter by Confederate
forces in South Carolina, which heralded the start of the Civil
War, "Lexington and the Bluegrass region, like the rest of Kentucky,
was strongly divided," wrote J. Winston Coleman in Lexington
During the Civil War. However, on the week after the fall
of Fort Sumter, an armed body of men bearing the Confederate flag
passed through the streets of Lexington, heading south to swell
the Confederate army, amidst cheers for Confederate President
Jefferson Davis. By May 1861, Lexington Unionist David A. Sayer,
an aged banker, began receiving shipments of rifles and revolvers
and distributing them in secret to his pro-Union friends, using
his bank at Mill and Short Streets as a base. By this point, Lexington,
along with the rest of Kentucky, had formed state guard companies
to keep the state neutral. Indeed, the situation in Kentucky was
so important to both the Confederacy and the Union that in September
1861, Kentucky-born President Abraham Lincoln wrote, "I think
to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game."
Prior to the outbreak of the conflict, Kentucky was tightly bound
to both regions. Although river trade, slavery, and a love of
states' rights tied the Commonwealth to the South, a newly established
railroad commerce and a historical devotion to the Union aligned
many Kentuckians with the North. Through statesmen like Henry
Clay, Kentucky had worn the mantle of compromise in settling conflicts
between these two regions. In the crucial presidential election
of 1860, two of the four candidates were Kentuckians. John C.
Breckinridge, a Lexington native and former vice president, ran
on the Southern Democrat ticket. Abraham Lincoln, the Republican
candidate, was born near Hodgenville, Kentucky. Kentuckians voted
for Tennesseean John Bell in the crucial 1860 Presidential election,
whose Constitutional Union platform was based on the preservation
of the Union. However, the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln
in 1860 caused South Carolina to secede from the Union on December
20, 1860. Lincoln's Republican Party was known for its stand on
halting slavery in the U.S. territories, which was anathema to
many Southerners. By February 1, 1861, the remaining six states
of the deep South-Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana,
and Texas-followed South Carolina, forming the Confederate States
On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops bombarded Fort Sumter,
a Union position off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.
With the fall of Fort Sumter President Lincoln called for 75,000
troops to suppress the rebellion. More southern states, such as
Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina, joined the Confederacy.
Kentucky Governor Magoffin refused Lincoln's call for troops,
stating, "Kentucky will furnish no troops for the wicked purpose
of subduing her sister Southern States." The next day, however,
Magoffin had to turn down a similar request for troops from Confederate
President Jefferson Davis (also born in the Bluegrass State).
On August 5, 1861, state elections ended the policy of Kentucky's
neutrality. As Southerners boycotted the election, Unionist candidates
won a sweeping victory.
On August 21, 1861, a detachment of 200 Federal cavalry arrived
in Lexington. This caused alarm, as units of the Lexington home
guard lined up behind an old brass cannon to face the Union troops,
but through negotiations the Union soldiers were permitted to
depart Lexington for their camp thirty miles from the city. Responding
to Union troops arriving on Kentucky soil, Confederate General
Leonidas Polk occupied Columbus, Kentucky, on September 4, 1861.
On September 19, 1500 Union troops marched into Lexington and
pitched their tents on what was then the old fair grounds. Orders
were soon given to disarm the state guard companies. On the night
of September 20, Lexington's most famous Confederate, Captain
(later Brigadier General) John Morgan, moved some guardsmen with
weapons out of the city. Morgan himself left Lexington the following
evening with fifteen or twenty followers, to join the Confederate
rendezvous on Green River. The Lexington men who joined the Confederacy
formed Company B of the Second Kentucky Infantry, and were originally
based at Camp Boone, in Montgomery County, Tennessee.
By late September 1861, Northern troops under Ulysses S. Grant seized
Paducah and Smithland, Kentucky. On September 18, Confederate forces
under General Albert Sidney Johnston occupied Bowling Green and
fortified the town. Johnston quickly established a defensive line
that spanned the southern portion of the state. Lexington by this
point was a Union garrisoned city, and the Fourteenth Ohio arrived
to reinforce the city, the first out of state forces to do so. In
October, Lt. Rittenhouse of the First U.S. Artillery opened a recruiting
office for the Union forces in Lexington. The Masonic Hall on Walnut
and Short Streets, which was demolished in 1891, later took on this
function, after serving as a hospital and prison during the Civil
Confederates held meetings in Russellville in late October and
mid-November and established a provisional Kentucky state government
that was admitted into the Confederate States of America on December
10,1861. Its capital was Bowling Green, but this government withdrew
with the Confederate army in mid-February 1862 and, despite a
brief return the same year, spent most of the Civil War in exile.
In early 1862, Union victories at Mill Springs combined with the
Confederate losses of Fort Henry and Donelson to (then) Brigadier
General Ulysses S. Grant's Federal armies caused General Johnston
to abandon the state for Tennessee. The Confederates, however,
would soon return.
In mid-August of 1862, the Confederates launched a two-pronged offensive
into the border states of Maryland and Kentucky. Leaving Knoxville
on August 14, Confederate Major General Edmund Kirby Smith bypassed
to the west of the Union-held Cumberland Gap and thrust deep into
eastern Kentucky. On August 30, Smith almost annihilated a Union
force of 6,500 near Richmond, Kentucky, despite an attempt to stem
the battle tide by Federal commander Maj. General William Nelson,
who arrived at 2 p.m. from Lexington. However, the Confederates
won, and August 30 proved a bleak day for the Lincoln administration;
coupled with the Richmond disaster was the Union defeat at Second
Manassas in Virginia. Lexington prepared for Confederate occupation,
and the Union soldiers destroyed government stores and ammunition
before retreating. When Smith's 11,000 Confederates entered Lexington
on September 2, 1862, they were cheered, and Smith wired the Confederate
high command in Richmond; "They have proven to us that the heart
of Kentucky is with the South in this struggle."
The Battle of Perryville, fought between Confederate General
Braxton Bragg and Union General Don Carlos Buell on October 8,
1862, was a tactical victory for the Confederates, but also a
strategic defeat. This battle, which was the largest Civil War
engagement in the Commonwealth, killed and wounded over 7,500
troops. Although the Southerners whipped the Federal left, Bragg
was forced to withdraw his outnumbered army from the state, ending
his invasion and dashing the hopes of a Confederate Kentucky.
The Confederates left Lexington on October 8, and by October 16,
the Union forces returned. Ashland, the
home of Henry Clay, was occupied by Union Major Charles B. Seidel,
but on October 18 John Morgan and his cavalry surprised Major
Seidel at Ashland and captured him and his command in broad daylight.
After outfitting his command with new horses, colt revolvers and
other captured goods, Morgan's men burned the government stables
and railroad depot before leaving Lexington.
By the winter of 1862-3 refugees from East Tennessee, which was
largely sympathetic to the Union, and escaped African-American
slaves, began arriving in Lexington. Soon, a large African-American
recruitment ground, located south of Nicholasville in Jessamine
County, called Camp
Nelson, began recruitment in March 1864. Eight African American
regiments, called the United States Colored Troops, were founded
at Camp Nelson and three other regiments trained there. Kentucky
slaves who enlisted in the Union cause were immediately freed.
The 13th Amendment finally freed all of Kentucky's slaves in December
1865. African Americans comprised 12 percent of the Union army
by the end of the Civil War, and had engaged in 41 major battles
and 449 smaller operations.
On June 8, 1864, Morgan returned to Lexington for the final
time during the Civil War. With 2,700 men Morgan left Virginia
on May 30 and rode into Kentucky. Morgan struck Mount Sterling
on June 8 and captured a garrison, then headed for Lexington,
to procure Federal supplies for some of his command who lacked
mounts. Hundreds of cords of wood at the Kentucky Central Railroad
building near the Lunatic Asylum were set on fire, and, as Coleman
records in Lexington During the Civil War, one Confederate
soldier recalled "though we had but four buildings burning they
were nigh circled half the town and the illumination suggested
the appearance of a general conflagration." According to Coleman,
Reverend Pratt, a native of Lexington, wrote in his diary, "It
looked frightful and we feared the town would be set on fire.
The federal forces retired to Fort Clay and commenced throwing
shells over the town. It was frightful to see those missiles of
death whizzing over our heads."
Morgan's men, tired and hungry, looted Lexington. Coleman also quotes
a contemporary account from The Observer and Reporter, a
local newspaper, which stated that the raiders "proceeded to help
themselves to whatever they wanted, and did so unstintingly. They
broke open nearly all the clothing and hat stores in town together
with Mr. Spencer's sadderly establishment from which they took everything
they desired." Although Morgan and his men left town after a few
hours, Mr. John Clay lost about $25,000.00 worth of fine horses
to Morgan, and Morgan's men also took $3,000.00 in gold and over
$10,000.00 from the Branch Bank of Kentucky. Morgan rode north to
Cynthiana, and in two days of fighting he captured Union Brig. Gen.
Edward Hobson's command but was soundly defeated by Union General
Stephen G. Burbridge. Morgan barely escaped with a handful of troopers
back into Virginia. However, Morgan's luck, which had been phenomenal,
would not last. John H. Morgan was killed in battle on September
3, 1864, near Greeneville, Tennessee, when he and his men were surprised
by body of Union cavalry under General Alvin C. Gilem. Given a state
funeral in Richmond, Virginia, he was buried in Hollywood Cemetery
and then reinterred with honor in 1868 in Lexington, Kentucky.
After Morgan's last raid, the Civil War in Lexington was over.
Nationally, the Civil War began to draw to a close with the surrender
of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia
at Appomattox, Virginia, on April 9, 1965. During the conflict,
over 75,000 Kentuckians fought with the Federal army, while approximately
25,000 of their fellow Kentuckians enlisted in the Confederacy.
Over 20,000 of the Union soldiers from Kentucky were African-American.
Of those 100,000 Kentuckians who served, nearly 30,000 died. At
least 10,000 were killed in battle, while the remaining 20,000
fell victim to disease and exposure.
Lexington bore the conflict with mixed loyalties. The town was
occupied by both sides, and the memory of the conflict was not
soon forgotten. The Bodley-Bullock House,
at 200 Market Street, was at different times the headquarters
for both Union and Confederate forces during the occupation of
the city. The congregations of most of the Protestant churches
split over their loyalties; the Christ Church
Episcopal at 166 Market Street, under the authority of Reverend
Jacob Shaw Shipman, was a rare example of a congregation that
maintained its unity during the conflict. In Lexington, the
Lexington Cemetery at 833 West Main Street provides a self-guided
tour for the historic portion of the cemetery. There are at least
seven Civil War Generals buried in the cemetery, which also includes
the graves of numerous soldiers from both sides. The Hunt-Morgan
House, at 201 North Mill Street, is a house museum, which
includes period furnishings and a second-floor Civil War museum.
This was the home of Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan.
The Mary Todd Lincoln House at 578 West
Main Street in Lexington contains articles from both the Todd
and Lincoln families. Finally, Kentucky's tradition of meditating
between the South and North owes much to U.S Senator, Speaker
of the House, Secretary of State and presidential candidate Henry
Clay, who lived at Ashland, on 120 Sycamore
Road, Lexington. Although Clay died in 1852, he was the chief
author of the Compromise of 1850, which helped hold the Union
together in the decade prior to the Civil War.
Parts of this article were taken verbatim from
the pamphlet "Kentucky's Civil War Heritage Trail," published
by the Kentucky Department of Travel, Capital Plaza Tower, 500
Metro St. #22, Frankfurt, KY 40601-1968. Lexington During the
Civil War by J. Winston Coleman, Jr., Commercial Printing
Co.; Lexington, Kentucky,1938 also provided much information.
Information was also taken from The Smithsonian's Great Battles
and Battlefields of the Civil War by Jay Wertz and Edwin C.
Bearss, William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York, 1997; the
Encyclopedia of the Confederacy, Richard N. Current, Editor
in Chief, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1993(especially the articles
on "John Hunt Morgan" by James A. Ramage and "Kentucky"
by Lowel H. Harrison), the Encyclopedia of the American Civil
War a Political, Social, and Military History, Volume III and
Volume 1V, David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, editors,
Santa Barbara, California, 2000, especially
of note Gregory J.W. Urwin's piece on "United States Colored
Troops" in Volume IV, from which the number of battles African
American troops participated in and the percentage of the Union
army comprised of African American troops.
The earliest building designers of Kentucky were not professionally
trained architects but were amateur builder-architects or builder-designers.
Most of the builders were house joiners, carpenters, and bricklayers
who conveyed the traditions of their immediate environment. By
the late 1700s, Matthew Kennedy came to Kentucky from Virginia
and Mathias Shryock came from Maryland, bringing with them traditional
building skills from their home regions.
In addition to their traditional building methods, these builder-designers
relied on regional materials. Stone was the predominant building
material because of the availability of limestone and marble,
a metamorphosed limestone. Stone was used in the foundations of
early log cabins and for simple and complex building forms because
it was durable, flexible, and could be used for architectural
ornamentation. Kentucky clay provided a good quality of brick
that could be fired into a hard brick. John Bob's was a local
brickyard in Lexington in 1791.
Early builders, unable to be trained by English and Italian
masters, relied on architectural treatises and builder guides.
The first of the guides to appear in America were reprints of
guides of the English carpenter-architect Abraham Swan, The
British Architect and A Collection of Designs in Architecture,
first published in Philadelphia in 1775. Other books available
in the period were William Pain's The Builder's Pocket-Treasure
and Practical Builder. John Norman's Town and Country
Builder's Assistant was printed in Boston in 1786. Owen Biddle's
The Young Carpenter's Assistant was printed in 1805 to
be sold in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Richmond, Virginia; and
Lexington, Kentucky, demonstrating the national recognition of
Lexington. Asher Benjamin's The Builder's Assistant (1800)
was published in Massachusetts as the third edition of The
Country Builder's Assistant, and was part of Mathias Shryock's
personal library. [Clay Lancaster, noted Kentucky architectural
historian, identified Kentucky buildings and interiors which were
adapted from the early builder's guides in his book, Antebellum
Architecture of Kentucky.]
Three distinct architectural styles emerged in Kentucky in the
first half of the 19th century. Gradually replacing the Federal
style during the first quarter of the 19th century, Greek Revival
becomes the new national style, ever present on public buildings
such as churches, schools, and government buildings. Religious
buildings became the prime examples of the Gothic Revival style
by 1830, supported by clergymen as economical to build and excellent
examples of ecclesiastical architecture reaching to the heavens.
Gothic Revival was also an exuberant, romantic design that promoted
country living and connecting to the land through landscaping
and horticulture. While the Renaissance Revival style was beginning
in upstate New York by the 1840s, local builders chose the less
formalized Italian villa style (Italianate) that related to the
agrarian lifestyle of Kentucky.
Architecture was not recognized as a profession in America until
the construction began for the U.
S. Capitol. Benjamin Henry Latrobe introduced the Greek Revival
style for public buildings to America. English born and trained
by an English architect, Latrobe is often credited as the real
founder of the architectural profession in the United States.
While Latrobe was engaged in the construction of the U. S. Capitol,
he became acquainted with U. S. Senator John Pope. In 1810, Pope
commissioned Latrobe to design his suburban villa at Lexington.
Three sheets of drawings for the house filed with the Library
of Congress reveal that two- and three-story elevations were proposed
for the elegant house. The two-story elevation was chosen by Senator
Pope and built by Asa Wilgus.
Latrobe was also a friend of Henry Clay when he was Speaker of
the U. S. House of Representatives from 1811-1820. Latrobe offered
free drawings to Clay for construction of the main building at
Transylvania University but his plans were not chosen due to expense
or difficulty in execution. Clay did ask Latrobe to design the
wings and additions to his residence, Ashland,
which Latrobe completed before his death in 1820. The influence
of Latrobe is evident in his buildings and successors: two of
his best students were William Strickland and Robert Mills.
Gideon Shryock, one of Mathias Shryock's 11 children born in
Kentucky, was educated in Lexington and apprenticed with his father.
When he was 21, he went to Philadelphia to study under William
Strickland who was designing the second Bank of Philadelphia,
patterned after the Parthenon. Shryock also purchased a copy of
the American edition of Swan's British Architect that he
brought back to Lexington. When he returned, he submitted plans
for the third state house in Frankfort that were accepted. The
building is constructed with a hexastyle portico of polished marble
taken from local quarries on the banks of the Kentucky River near
Frankfort. Not only is the building as nearly fireproof as possible,
but the stairway is also an engineering feat.
Gideon also received a commission for Morrison
College of Transylvania University to replace the main building
that was lost to fire. His plans were amendments to an earlier
plan, creating a porticoed central pavilion and wings. This set
the precedent for simplicity in the Greek Revival movement in
Kentucky. Shryock was the State's most prominent architect from
1827 to 1837, designing public and residential buildings in Frankfort
One of Gideon Shryock's apprentices was John McMurtry (1812-1890),
also from Maryland parents but who was born on a farm outside
Lexington. McMurtry was a builder who sought the training and
guidance of Shryock in 1833 and within a year, Shryock decided
to let McMurtry sublet a building contract for the new dormitory
at Morrison College. McMurtry and his brother completed the carpentry
work and his building career began. McMurtry designed and built
many public buildings in the Greek Revival Style in Lexington,
such as The Medical Hall and dormitory at Transylvania University.
McMurtry combined Greek Revival with Gothic on the Catholic Church
of Saint Peter (1837) that stood on North Limestone before it
was demolished in 1930. This combination of Greek Revival with
pointed windows and doors and Gothic spire was unusual, but shows
that English influences, such as the Gothic Revival, were on their
way to Kentucky. McMurtry was the builder for Major Thomas Lewinski's
design for Christ Church in 1848 and the architect for the McChord
Presbyterian Church on Market Street, which contained the first
stained glass windows directly imported from Germany.
By 1831 a national interest in open space and parkland emerged
from the first rural cemetery, Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge,
Massachusetts. The cemetery was no longer a somber graveyard,
but instead was a place for reflection, strolling, and family
picnics, with the intent to improve the health of urban residents.
The setting favored an English park with monumental architecture.
John McMurtry designed two Gothic Revival gateways for the Paris
Cemetery Company and the Lexington Cemetery
(torn down in 1890). An outstanding example of one of McMurtry's
Gothic Revival residences is still visible today in Elley Villa,
built on Maxwell Street. The construction is an adaptation of
design 25 in Andrew Downing's The Architecture of Country Houses.
The house has changed uses now and is known as Aylesford, a private
residence. Another excellent example is Loudoun,
designed by A. J. Davis (New York architect), and called by Clay
Lancaster, "the first and foremost castellated villa in Kentucky."
Built by John McMurtry, the villa is now Castlewood Park.
Thomas Lewinski arrived in Lexington in 1842 about the time Gideon
Shryock was moving to Louisville. Lewinski was English born and
trained as a Roman Catholic priest, served as a soldier in the
British Army and taught at the University of Louisville. In 1848
Lewinski designed Christ Episcopal Church,
the fourth Episcopal Church to occupy the site. Major Thomas Lewinski
was the architect, John McMurtry was the builder. When Henry Clay
died in 1852, his son purchased Ashland from the estate. Apparently
damaged by the 1811-12 earthquakes, the foundation was badly damaged
and Clay decided to rebuild Ashland. Lewinski was hired to design
the new Ashland which follows the basic design of the original
but with more elaborate detailing. Ashland was completed in 1856
and is now open to the public through the Henry Clay Memorial
Cincinnatus Shryock, younger brother of Gideon, studied medicine
at Transylvania University until the final term when he left school
to work on a construction project. Apparently somewhat of a renaissance
man, Cincinnatus was a mathematician who designed his own telescope,
was an avid reader, musician, and builder who embraced the Gothic
Revival style. In 1872 he built the First Presbyterian
Church on North Mill Street with a 150-foot spire. His work
is evident in the South Hill Historic District.
Throughout the 20th century Lexington has experienced the same
growing pains as have many other cities. With urban sprawl, businesses
and residents have migrated to the fringes of the city. Lexington's
downtown area experienced a significant decline during the last
half of the 20th century. Growth and redevelopment have also resulted
in many of Lexington and Fayette County's historic places falling
prey to the bulldozer.
Changes to this decline have come about only recently. A new
heightened awareness of the importance of preserving historic
buildings and reviving the downtown area has slowly developed.
One group that has helped to foster this awareness is the Blue
Grass Trust for Historic Preservation. The Blue Grass Trust was
first organized in 1955 to save the historic Hunt-Morgan
House and the neighboring Thomas Hart House. While the Thomas
Hart House was destroyed (the site is now a parking lot), the
Blue Grass Trust succeeded in saving the Hunt-Morgan House, which
it continues to operate today as an interpretive house museum.
The Blue Grass Trust has also been successful in saving other
historic places such as the Adam Rankin House in the South
Hill Historic District; Shakertown at Pleasant Hill; the Mary
Todd Lincoln House; and, in conjunction with Transylvania
University, the Belle Breezing Row House. Currently the Blue Grass
Trust for Historic Preservation is restoring the John Pope Villa,
which was designed by nationally known architect Benjamin Henry
Latrobe. The $1.6 million restoration is partially being assisted
by the Save
America's Treasures program from the National Trust for Historic
Preservation and the Kentucky Heritage Council as well as many
other foundations. One of the Trust's main goals is to reach out
to the community and make citizens aware of the importance of
preservation. As the mission statement reads: "the Blue Grass
Trust is guided by the three tenets of the Trust mission--education,
service and advocacy."
The Henry Clay Foundation and their efforts at historic Ashland
also illustrate the community's focus on historic preservation.
After the group's extensive renovation of the building from 1990
to 1991, Ashland once again reflects its 19th-century appearance.
Individual places of prominence in the city are not the only objects
of preservation in Lexington. More and more residents are also
taking part in the preservation of Lexington's historic neighborhoods
such as Ashland Park, Bell Court,
and Constitution Historic District. The Lexington-Fayette
County government assists homeowners through the Historic Preservation
Commission, which is part of the city-county government. An important
part of the Commission is the Architectural Review Board, which
approves design changes and advises owners of historic properties
how to best preserve their properties. Additionally, the Commission
reviews all requests for demolition in the city and county. With
the conscious efforts of the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation,
the Historic Preservation Commission, and many other groups and
individuals, Lexington hopes to save the most important visible
reminders of our past as a people--our historic places.
Lexington, the heart of Kentucky "bluegrass,"
has been renowned for two centuries for horse raising and horse
racing. Shortly after the track's completion in 1936, Keeneland
Racetrack became the most conspicuous manifestation of this culture.
Jack Keene, for whom Keeneland is named, was an extraordinary
figure in American racing, and helped revive this industry during
the 1930s when it was beginning to suffer. Keene was a descendant
of a distinguished Lexington family and was known worldwide as
a trainer of thoroughbreds. After training abroad in Russia and
Japan he returned to Kentucky where he began laying out the Keeneland
racecourse in 1916. The main track is one and 1/16th miles in
circumference and has retained this length since its original
inception by Keene. The grounds also include Keene's mansion and
training center. Constructed of limestone that was quarried on
Keene's farm, this building was designed with living quarters,
a large clubroom and stalls. The two-story center section of the
building is flanked on either side by stone arcades leading to
three-story wings of the building.
After $200,000 and 20 years of fluctuating finances
for Keene, he sold his private racing complex to the newly formed
non-profit Keeneland Association in 1936. The Association planned
to conduct racing for the benefit of the horsemen and to reinvest
profits in the track and grounds. Keene's mansion was converted
into a clubhouse, and a portico and bi-level porch, or miniature
"grandstand" were added. A large stone and wood grandstand
was completed in 1936 which seated 2,500 spectators. By the 1940s
Keenland was one of the most successful tracks in the country,
and the grandstand was expanded over the years to seat 5,000.
Today, Keeneland still plays host to the Blue Grass Stakes, which
is a precursor to the famed Kentucky Derby held in Louisville
each year, as well as many other races. The Keeneland Racetrack
is a Lexington institution that figures prominently in its designation
as the "horse capital of the world."
The Keeneland Racetrack, a National Historic Landmark, is
located at 4201 Versailles Rd. in Fayette County. Races are held
Wednesday-Sunday from April-October. Keeneland plays host to a
wide variety of horse related events annually including the Blue
Grass Stakes and the Phoenix Handicap, the oldest stakes race
in the United States. The annual horse sales at Keeneland are
also world-renowned and literally attract the "crowned heads of
Europe." For more information about races or the track itself
please call 859-254-3412 or visit www.keeneland.com.
Floral Hall was built in 1882 by John McMurtry. The building
was originally an exhibition hall for floral displays on what
was then the Fair Grounds of the Kentucky Agricultural & Mechanical
Association. The large, brick octagonal shaped building is approximately
four stories tall surmounted by a large windowed cupola. The interior
of the building is a large open space, a functional design for
use as an exhibition hall. In 1896, the fair grounds were purchased
by the Trotting Association and the exhibition hall was converted
into a horse barn.
Kentucky's first incorporated trotting organization was organized
on October 29, 1859. The corporation purchased land and built
a track on what is now University of Kentucky property. R. A.
Alexander, son of a British lord and outstanding breeder of standardbreds
and thoroughbreds on his farm in Woodburn County, was the Association's
first President. Meets were held at the new track in 1859, 1860
and 1861 before they were disrupted by the Civil War. During the
war the site was used as a military campground. Beginning in 1875,
the Fair Grounds and Floral Hall were leased for race meets by
the Trotting Association, which eventually evolved into the Red
Mile Trotting Track. At the site of the Red Mile Track the harness-racing
industry in Kentucky developed fully. In 1963, after a renovation,
the name of the building was changed from Floral Hall to the Standardbred
Stable of Memories. Today, although not open to the public, the
Standardbred Stable of Memories is the most visible building of
the Red Mile Trotting Track.
The Standardbred Stable of Memories is located at 847 South
Broadway adjacent to the Red Mile Race Track. It is not open to
McConnell Springs is a significant site in Lexington
history successfully preserved by local citizens. It is at McConnell
Springs that the naming of the city of Lexington took place in
1775. In the 1770s Kentucky began attracting numerous frontiersmen,
particularly after the conclusion in 1774 of Virginia Governor
Dunmore's campaign against the American Indians of the west. William
McConnell and some fellow frontiersmen came from Pennsylvania
to explore the "Kentucky Country." In 1775 McConnell and his group
were camped at the McConnell Springs site when news of the first
shots of the Revolutionary War reached them from nearby Fort Boonesborough.
Lexington, Kentucky, was thereby named by these frontiersmen in
honor of the city of Lexington, Massachusetts, where "the shots
heard round the world" were fired and the American Revolutionary
Over the next 220 years this property served as
the location of a mill, distillery, gunpowder factory, and dairy
farm. Sadly enough, as the city of Lexington grew, McConnell Springs
was swallowed by industrial development. Fortunately, local citizens
undertook efforts to reclaim the site in the late 1980s and funds
were raised to turn the site into a park. Returning the site to
its natural state required removing tons of trash and construction
debris that had accumulated in the area over several years. Now,
McConnell Springs serves as not only a historical site of interest
but also a natural park. The park is interspersed with rock fences
that attest to its earlier years as well as a dam from the early
mill and the foundation of what might have been the home of the
early proprietor William McConnell.
McConnell Springs is located on Old Frankfort Pike west
of downtown Lexington. McConnell Springs is open to the public
daily for hiking, exploration, and bird watching with a major
emphasis on education. Public tours of the park are given on a
regular basis. For more information on tours or special events
please call McConnell Springs at 859-225-4073 or visit www.kawc.com/about/mcconnell.htm.
Cemetery and Henry Clay Monument
The nationally reputed garden cemetery in Lexington,
Kentucky, is the burial site of many notable Kentuckians. Lexington
Cemetery was the first rural cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky.
The burial ground was originally established in 1849 on 40 acres
of land but the acreage was eventually increased to 170 acres.
At the entrance to the cemetery is a Romanesque style gatehouse
built in 1890. The cemetery also contains an arboretum and a wide
variety of plants, shrubs, trees and flowers. There are also two
large lakes that provide a home for ducks, swans, and other waterfowl
plus hundreds of large goldfish. The Romanesque gatehouse was
built in 1890, after the original Gothic gatehouse built by local
builder John McMurty was torn down.
Located in the center of the cemetery is a magnificent monument
to Kentucky's famous senator and three time presidential candidate,
Henry Clay. Clay served as a United States Senator and Representative
from Kentucky during the period of the War of 1812 up to the decade
preceding the Civil War. Henry Clay was best known for his attempts
to secure a compromise between the states on the issue of slavery.
The monument was erected in 1857 after Clay's death in June 1852.
The monument was built using native limestone and consists of
a 120-foot tall Corinthian column surmounted by a statue of Clay.
The remains of Clay and his wife Lucretia rest in two marble sarcophagi
on the floor of a vaulted chamber at the base of the monument.
The cemetery also incorporates one of eight national cemeteries
in Kentucky and contains the remains of both Union and Confederate
soldiers as well as veterans of the Spanish-American War. Other
notable Kentuckians who are buried in the cemetery include: John
C. Breckinridge, Vice-President of the United States under James
Buchanan and general in the Confederate Army; James Lane Allen,
author of books such as Flute and Violin and The
Blue Grass Region of Kentucky; as well as General
John Hunt Morgan, daring raider of the Confederacy. The beauty
of the cemetery is the result of the conscientious planning by
the cemetery's superintendents and on-staff horticulturist. Early
maps of the cemetery indicate that the basic design of the cemetery
is similar today to its 19th-century appearance.
The Lexington Cemetery is located at 833 West Main St. The
cemetery is open to the public from 8:00am to 5:00pm year round
with self-guided tours. For more information call the cemetery
office at 859-255-5522 or visit its website.
Todd Lincoln House
This simple two story brick building on West Main
Street was home to Robert S. Todd and his family, including his
daughter Mary, wife of the 16th President of the United States,
Abraham Lincoln. Mary Todd was not born at this house but moved
here with her family in 1832 when she was 14 years old. For four
years Mary attended boarding school during the week but returned
home on the weekends. She continued to live at the West Main address
until 1839, when she moved to Springfield, Illinois, to live with
her sister, Mrs. Ninian Edwards. It was here that she eventually
married a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln in 1842.
The house was built c.1811 as an inn and was called "The Sign
of the Green Tree" before its purchase by the Todd family. A contemporary
of Henry Clay and John Wesley
Hunt, Robert S. Todd was a Lexington businessman and politician.
Todd was the president of the Lexington Branch of the Bank of
Kentucky and also served in the Kentucky General Assembly for
24 years. He was actively involved in the grocery business in
Lexington as well as a cotton-manufacturing firm.
The Mary Todd Lincoln house has the distinction of being the
first historic site restored in honor of a First Lady. The home
is operated by the Kentucky Mansions Preservation Foundation,
Inc. and was opened to the public on June 9, 1977. After Robert
S. Todd's death the home was auctioned and the inventory from
this auction was used to return many Todd and Lincoln family pieces
to the home.
The Mary Todd Lincoln House is a private, non-profit museum located at 578 West Main St. It is open Monday-Saturday from March 15-November 30; guided tours are available hourly from 10:00am to 3:00pm, admission charged. For more information call 859-233-9999 or visit the house's website.
The Victorian Commercial Block is an important commercial
center in downtown Lexington. Its commercial buildings were constructed
primarily during the 1870s and 1880s, a period of great prosperity
and trade in Lexington's history. A wide variety of businesses
were found here including a furniture store, basket maker's shop,
grocery store and printing businesses. The block still retains
its 19th century profile and charm, and contains similar businesses
to those originally operating here. Many of its Victorian decorative
details such as bracketed storefronts, ornate hood molds, pressed
tin ceilings and tile stoops survive. The block is located at
the corner of Main Street and North Broadway, the two widest streets
in Lexington and a strategic location between the Downtown
Commercial District and the western suburbs. One of the noted
buildings in the district was Lell's Opera House, at 410-412 West
Short, called "the prettiest building in Lexington." Built in
1882 by prominent businessman and civic leader John William Lell,
an immigrant from Wurtenburg, Germany, the opera building could
hold 600 people. It was later destroyed by fire.
Today, the block continues to be the heart of a
thriving commercial and recreation area. Adjacent to the block
is Rupp Arena and the Lexington Convention Center as well as the
newly remodeled Lexington Opera House. Recent
renovations to the block have preserved the intact storefronts,
while reorganizing some of the interiors to create more open spaces.
The block is now home to restaurants, clothing stores, and a children's museum called the Explorium of Lexington, as well as a variety of arts and
The Victorian Commercial Block is located at the corner of
West Main and North Broadway sts. For information on the
Explorium of Lexington please visit www.explorium.com
The Lexington Opera House was built in 1886 following the destruction by fire of the earlier opera house. Designed by the noted theatrical architect Oscar Cobb of Chicago, the opera house was opened on August 19, 1887 with a production of "Our Angel" by the Lizzie Evans Stock Company. The three-story building originally seated 1,250 people and had two balconies and two boxes on either side of the stage. The interior of the opera house was lavishly decorated in Turkish morocco and each box was equipped with its own hat rack, cane and umbrella holder, and springs to help people enter their seats. An 1893 article in The Kentucky Leader describes the house as one of the "costliest, handsomest and most convenient Thespian temples in the South, an object of cherished pride in the city."
Over the years the opera house hosted many large and elaborate performances. A production of the "Henley Regatta" in 1890 required a flooding of the stage. In 1893, approximately 100 animals and a mile-long parade were used for the performance of "A Country Circus." In 1904 a production of "Ben Hur" involved an on-stage chariot race. These plays alone should attest to the popularity of opera and the lavish performances that took place in the building. Many notables have performed in the opera house including: John Phillip Sousa, Mrs. Tom Thumb, Will Rogers, Mae West, and the Marx Brothers.
After its last live performance on October 1, 1926, the Opera House began a long history of use as movie theatre. Over time, the theatre fell into disrepair and was scheduled for demolition in the early 1970s. Spared the fate of demolition, the building was restored during the mid 1970's and reopened for live performances in 1976 and is now used again for theatrical and musical performances.
The Lexington Opera House is located at 145 North Broadway,
a block north of the Victorian Commercial Block.
Now owned by the Lexington Center Corporation, the Lexington Opera
House is open during performances only, which occur throughout
the year. For ticket information please call 859-233-4567.
Hill Historic District
The South Hill Historic District is a neighborhood
of early residential homes adjacent to downtown Lexington. In
1781, Lexington's five-man Board of Trustees successfully petitioned
the Virginia Assembly for 710 acres of land that was divided into
half-acre and five-acre lots, according to a town plat. "The south
hill" was made up of larger lots located outside of the town of
Lexington that were soon subdivided. South Hill is so named because
in pioneer days the area overlooked the Town Branch of Elkhorn
Creek that once flowed through the center of the city. The homes
in this district were built over a period of time spanning more
than 100 years. The earliest homes were built during the early
19th century and are mainly Federal and Greek Revival styles.
Most of the older homes are in the northern half of the district.
The district also includes homes built after the Civil War into
the early 20th century. Buildings designed by two of Lexington's
greatest architects, John McMurtry and Cincinnatus Shryock, can
also be found in this district. The mixture of styles on each
street is aesthetically compatible, of similar scale and placed
on lots of similar size. However, the scale and lot size on each
street differs, with the bordering streets of the district such
as South Limestone and South Broadway containing larger houses
or larger lots set further back from the street.
This district consists of many homes that were once
owned by free African Americans at a time when slavery was still
an institution in Kentucky. Prosperous whites lived alongside
prosperous African Americans with many middle class citizens also
living in the district. The oldest home in Lexington, the Adam
Rankin House is located in this district on South Mill Street.
Despite the rapid growth of Lexington and the neighboring University
of Kentucky, the South Hill Historic District has remained virtually
untouched with some commercial infringement on the outer edges
of the community. At one time located on the outskirts of Lexington,
the neighborhood is now in the heart of the city.
The South Hill Historic District is roughly bounded by South
Broadway, West High St., South Limestone, and Pine St. and is
adjacent to the University of Kentucky in central Lexington. The
houses in the district are private residences and are not open
to the public.
The Downtown Commercial District attests to Lexington's
early importance as a commercial center, and was the pre-World
War II commercial, financial, institutional and governmental center
of the city. This district was vital in the early years of Lexington's
history and again during the post-war boom of the 1950s. There
are many architectural styles represented in this district including
Victorian, Federal, Art Deco, Beaux Arts, and Richardsonian Romanesque.
The district contains several early, high-rise office buildings.
The earliest of these was the American Bank Building at the northeast
corner of Upper and West Short streets. Originally five stories
when it was built around 1900, two stories were added by 1905
and it became the tallest building in Lexington. At the easternmost
edge of this district on East Main Street stood the Ben Snyder
Shopping District. Most of the buildings in this block have been
demolished to make way for the new Fayette County Courthouse but
three buildings remain; Embry's Department Store Building, the
Lowenthal Building, and the Lexington Laundry Company, all excellent
examples of early 20th-century architecture. The Laundry Company,
built around 1929, is possibly the best example of Art-Deco architecture
in Lexington. The fašade is composed of wheat-toned glazed tile
highlighted by stylized floral patterns. Plans are proposed to
incorporate these three buildings into an art center for the city.
The Lexington-Fayette County Courthouse is also
located within the Downtown Commercial District. During Lexington's
earliest days, the area adjacent to the courthouse was known as
Cheapside and served as an important trading center for agricultural
goods and horses. "Court days" were held in Cheapside on the second
Monday of each month for many years. These "Court days" provided
time for socializing as well as business activities. Five courthouses
have stood on this site and the present courthouse was built in
1898. It is an excellent example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture.
Few changes have been made to the exterior while minor changes,
due to modernization, have been made on the interior. On the courthouse
lawn are statues of Vice President John Cabell Breckinridge and
General John Hunt Morgan, both natives of Lexington.
Although Lexington has become suburbanized in recent years and
most of the commercial business done in Lexington has moved to
the outer fringes of the city, the Downtown Commercial District
is slowly making a comeback and continues to regain the prominence
it once held in the city.
The Downtown Commercial District includes the north
side of East Main St. and Short St. between Broadway and Martin
Luther King Blvd.
First Presbyterian Church is one of the oldest congregations
in Lexington. The church was founded in 1784 and was then known
as the Mount Zion Church. It was founded to serve the spiritual
needs of the many Scotch-Irish who had migrated to the frontier
in the soon-to-be state of Kentucky. Previous to the present building,
the congregation shared a church with the Second Presbyterian
Church. The First Presbyterian Church of Lexington was constructed
in 1872 and designed by Kentucky architect Cincinnatus Shryock.
Shryock was a member of the famed family of Kentucky architects
of which one member, Gideon, is responsible for Old
Morrison on the campus of Transylvania University as well
as the Old State Capitol Building in Frankfort.
First Presbyterian Church is executed in a simplified Gothic
style. The building is visually impressive because of its large
tower surmounted by a copper spire and arched stained-glass windows
that highlight the fašade. The interior of the building contains
many natural woods as well as other Gothic architectural elements.
The building is remarkably intact, reflecting both internally
and externally its 19th-century appearance. Despite the growth
of Lexington and the many skyscrapers within the city, the church
still maintains a prominent place in the Lexington skyline. As
the Lexington Observer & Reporter stated on May 8, 1872,
three days after the dedication of the building: "In the erection
of this beautiful ornament to our city, Mr. C. Shryock, the architect,
had made a noble monument to his own skill and good taste."
The First Presbyterian Church Lexington is located at 171
North Mill St. The church is adjacent to Henry
Clay's Law Office and less than a block from the Hunt-Morgan
House. Worship services of the First Presbyterian Church are
held here weekly. For information about worship times please call
Clay's Law Office
Henry Clay, "the Star of the West" and important 19th-century
political figure, began his law practice in this small brick building.
The one-story office was built by Clay in 1803 and measures a
mere 20 by 22 feet. Born in Hanover County, Virginia, in 1777,
Henry Clay grew up hearing orators such as Patrick Henry. Clay
studied with Chancellor George Wyth--professor of law and classics
at the College of William and Mary and teacher of Thomas Jefferson
and John Marshall. Completing his law training in the office of
the state Attorney General, Robert Brooke, in 1797, Clay decided
to follow his mother to Kentucky, and eventually settled in Lexington.
Clay occupied this law office from 1803 to 1810 during which
time he was elected to two successive terms in the Kentucky Legislature
and also to fill unexpired terms in the United States Senate.
Later in his career, Clay served as a United States Congressman,
Senator, Secretary of State, and ran for the presidency three
times--losing only by a slim margin in the election of 1844.
The law office is not only historically significant because of
its early occupant, but also as one of the few early, professional
buildings remaining in Lexington. In 1830, the law office was
incorporated into a larger building, and the originial roof was
removed. The State of Kentucky purchased the building in 1969
and the 1830 additions were carefully demolished, revealing the
building's original 1803 configuration. A careful restoration
was undertaken and completed in 1971. The law office is presently
owned by the First Presbyterian Church.
Henry Clay's Law Office is located at 176 North Mill St. just
south of Gratz Park. It is not open to the public.
Limestone Commercial District
The North Limestone Commercial District is one of
the oldest and most varied commercial areas in Lexington. The
district is located along the principal north-south thoroughfare
that has historically connected Lexington to the town of Limestone
(now Maysville, Kentucky). During the 19th century, the district
served as an important market center with many meat shops and
grocers. Several other mixed-use commercial buildings were located
here. The North Limestone Commercial District contains a variety
of commercial buildings that span several time periods from ante-bellum
and Victorian through the early 20th century. The only significant
intrusions within the district have been parking lots, which attest
to the growth and importance of the automobile within the last
The North Limestone Commercial District retains
a great degree of its original building fabric. The district can
be divided into three main sections along North Limestone Street.
The first stretches from 169 to 177 North Limestone and consists
of Federal style commercial architecture built during the early
19th century. Two of the buildings in this section were originally
homes and later converted to commercial space when the area's
importance as a commercial center was growing. The second section
includes 209 through 221 North Limestone and contains Georgian
Revival, Italianate, and Richardsonian style architecture with
characteristic architectural features from each of these periods.
While the third section, 257 to 267 North Limestone, contains
the earliest buildings in the district--begun in 1809--construction
in this section continued until the turn of the the 20th century.
This section includes a small, Federal house offset from the street
between two commercial buildings. Today, the first floor of most
of the buildings in the district is still used as commercial space,
while the second floor space provides residential housing.
The North Limestone Commercial District is located on North
Limestone St. between Church and Third Sts. Many buildings within
the district contain businesses that are open during regular business
During Lexington's early growth, Christ Church Episcopal
was one of the institutions that contributed to the city's image
as "the Athens of the West." Christ Church, established in 1796,
was the first Episcopal congregation west of the Allegheny Mountains.
It became the seat of the Diocese of Kentucky in 1829 as well
as the Diocese of Lexington. The earliest building on this site
was a small frame church, which was replaced by a larger brick
building during the early 19th century. The great cholera epidemic
of 1833 in Lexington claimed the lives of approximately 30 percent
of the congregation. The parishioners who died during this plague
were interred in the nearby Episcopal Burying Ground.
The current church was designed by famed Lexington
architect Thomas Lewinski and completed in 1848. Gothic Revival
was a very popular architectural style for ecclesiastical architecture
during the mid-19th century. Lewinski applied various Gothic
elements to Christ Church Episcopal such as the large central,
square tower topped by several large pinnacles, as well as the
interior buttresses and arches. In 1858, upon the arrival of
a new rector, Reverend James Morrison, contracts were let for
large addition to the church building, but as war approached,
construction was halted due to lack of funds. This addition,
"Morrison's folly" as some called it, was boarded up to keep
out the weather. When the next rector, Reverend Jacob Shaw Shipman,
assumed his duties in October 1861, he found the city under military
rule. He was not able to rouse enough enthusiasm in his parish
to resume construction on the church addition until the following
spring. By the time the addition was completed in March 1864,
which added transepts and organ space, the congregation had grown
to fill the new space, with well over 400 communicants. A few
years later Bishop Smith declared publicly that Shipman was "the
only man in America who, when every Protestant church in Lexington
was divided during the war, could have held his church together."
Over the years the congregation has included several prominent
members such as Kentucky statesman Henry Clay;
John Wesley Hunt; General John Hunt Morgan;
and John Bradford, the editor of the first newspaper in the west.
Christ Church Episcopal is now called the Christ Church Cathedral.
Christ Church Episcopal is located at 166 Market St., on
the edge of the Gratz Park Historic District.
For more information on the church or worship times please call
859-254-4497 or visit its website.
Park Historic District
The Gratz Park Historic District is one of the most
beautiful areas in downtown Lexington, comprised of a city park
and several large residences. In the words of Kentucky architectural
historian Clay Lancaster, "the park has charm, atmosphere, a sense
of tranquility and of history, and it provides an oasis of planting
tucked into the cityscape." Gratz Park occupies a tract of land
that was established in 1781 outside of the original boundaries
of Lexington when the town plat was prepared that year by order
of the Virginia Assembly. In 1793 the park was purchased by the
Transylvania Seminary as the site for its Lexington campus. In
1816 a large three-story structure (see historic image below)
was built in the center of the park to serve as the main building
for Transylvania Seminary. Designed by Matthew Kennedy, Lexington's
first architect, it was erected near the center of campus. Following
the destruction of that building by fire in 1829, the Transylvania
campus was moved across Third Street to its present location.
Only one building from this original campus remains--the Old
Kitchen Building. Now, grand 19th-century townhouses built
for Lexington's prominent and wealthy characterize the district.
Gratz Park is named after early Lexington businessman
Benjamin Gratz whose home stands on the corner of Mill and New
streets at the edge of Gratz Park. The historic district consists
of 16 buildings including the Hunt-Morgan House,
the Bodley-Bullock House, the Carnegie
Library, and several other private residences. Typical of
residences in the district are the three consecutive row houses
along Mill Street (239-247) erected by Mrs. William
Cassius Goodloe, widow of a former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium,
around 1901. At the northern edge of the park is the "Fountain
of Youth," built in memory of Lexington author James Lane Allen
using proceeds willed to the city by Allen. The park was deeded
to the city of Lexington during the mid-20th century and is still
used as a public park today. It is a wonderful place for a picnic
or to examine the beauty of this historic district.
The Gratz Park Historic District is bounded by West Third
and West Second sts. on the north and south, and by the buildings
that line Mill and Market sts. on the west and east. The park
is open to the public. Several houses within the district that
are open to the public are also included individually in this
The Hunt-Morgan House, historically known as Hopemont,
was built by John Wesley Hunt in 1814. Hunt was known as the first
millionaire west of the Alleghenies and earned his fortune from
the mercantile business shortly after Lexington was established.
Other notable personalities have also resided at Hopemont. Hunt's
grandson, General John Hunt Morgan, was a dashing general in the
Confederate Army who gained the nickname "The Thunderbolt
of the Confederacy" through his many raids and daring military
feats. John Wesley Hunt's great grandson, Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan,
was born in the house in 1866. Dr. Morgan became famous for his
work in genetics and is one of a very few Kentuckians to have won the Nobel
Prize. The Hunt-Morgan House is a Federal style residence with
specific emphasis on the geometric phase of the period. The building
has many fine architectural features including a Palladian window
with fan and sidelights that grace the front fašade, as well as
a large spiral staircase in the front entranceway.
In 1955, the Foundation for the Preservation of
Historic Lexington and Fayette County was formed to save the Hunt-Morgan
House and the neighboring Col. Thomas Hart House, which was demolished
for a parking lot that year. The Hunt-Morgan House was saved and
the name of the Foundation was changed to the Blue Grass Trust
for Historic Preservation. The organization restored the home
to its 1814 appearance and the house is now an interpretive museum
illustrating the lifestyle and culture of early 19th-century Kentucky
affluence. The home is also the site of the Alexander T. Hunt
Civil War Museum, which contains many Civil War artifacts and
is a great resource for Civil War researchers and enthusiasts.
The Hunt-Morgan House is located in the Gratz
Park Historic District at 201 N. Mill St. The house and Alexander
T. Hunt Civil War Museum are open to the public, with a small
admission fee, from the first of March through mid-December.
Tours are offered Wednesday through Friday and Sunday from
1:00-4:00pm on the hour. The house is open for tours on
Saturday from 10:00am-3:00pm with tours starting on the
hour. For more information call
859-253-0362 or visit the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation's
Lexington's library has a long, distinguished history. Established
in 1795, it is now the oldest institution of its kind in Kentucky
and possibly the oldest in the west. The library was started with
400 books, which were added to the collection that already existed
at the Transylvania Seminary. The library was based on subscription
wherein people paid for the use of the library holdings. In 1898,
Lexington was deemed a second-class city by the Kentucky Legislature
and this classification enabled the city to acquire and conduct
a free library.
The Carnegie Library, also known as the Lexington Public Library,
was built in 1906 as a gift to the city of Lexington from the
Andrew Carnegie Foundation. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie donated
$60,000 of his approximate $550 million fortune to the city for
the construction of the library building. To receive its donation,
the Carnegie Foundation required the city to provide a site for
the library and to appropriate funds for the library's upkeep.
The new building was constructed of Bedford limestone and was
built for a sum of $75,000. Thereafter, the contents of the library
were moved to their new home, a beautiful Neo-Classical building
at the southern end of Gratz Park.
During the late 1980s the Lexington Public Library built a new,
larger central branch on East Main Street to accommodate its growing
collection. The Carnegie Library is now the home of the Carnegie
Center for Literacy and Learning. This organization provides many
free, public programs to help spread literacy and to promote reading
The Carnegie Library is located in the Gratz
Park Historic District at 251 West Second St. For information
about the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning please call
859-254-4175 or visit its website.
The Bodley-Bullock House is one of the most prominent
and stately mansions in the Bluegrass region. The home was built
circa 1814 for Lexington Mayor Thomas Pindell. Shortly after its
construction it was sold to General Thomas Bodley, a veteran of
the War of 1812, for whom the house was named. The home has many
unusual architectural features and is very similar in design to
the Hunt-Morgan House. Originally constructed
as a Federal style residence, numerous additions and alterations
during the 19th century resulted in a house that is more characteristic
of the Greek Revival period. A small, one-story columned portico
was added to the front entrance, at which time a Palladian window
above the door was removed. A large, two-story columned portico
was also added to the side of the house that faces the garden.
During the Civil War the house served as headquarters for both
Union and Confederate forces during the occupation of the city
by both factions. After the war, the house was owned by a series
of owners including the Bullock family who purchased it in 1912.
Dr. Waller Bullock was an accomplished sculptor as well as the
founder of the Lexington Clinic. His wife, Minnie Bullock, was
the founder of the Garden Club of Lexington and an avid gardener.
Following Mrs. Bullock's death in 1970 the Junior League of Lexington
leased the home from the Bullock estate for the sum of $1 a year.
The Bodley-Bullock House is located at 200 Market St. in
the Gratz Park Historic District. Now a house
museum, it is open for tours by appointment year-round, except
on holidays. To schedule an appointment or for further information
The Old Kitchen Building is located on the edge
of Gratz Park and is a link between modern Lexington and its early
history, as the only surviving building from the original Transylvania
College campus. The building was constructed as classroom space
in the early 19th-century. It was deemed the "Kitchen" by the
students of the college because it was so inadequate as a classroom.
This inadequacy led to the construction of the larger Transylvania
main building in 1816 in the center of Gratz Park.
This main building, the "Kitchen," and a third building on the
opposite side of Gratz Park were the original buildings of the
Transylvania College campus. The main building was destroyed by
fire in 1829, after which the campus was moved with the construction
of Old Morrison in 1833. By 1857 the other
college building in Gratz Park had disappeared, leaving only the
Kitchen from the original campus.
The Old Kitchen is a rectangular, brick building with a hipped
roof. It has been altered little since the early 19th century,
with the exception of some windows, doors and modernization of
the building. After the college campus was moved, the Kitchen
was used for a variety of functions over the following century
and a half. During the early years of the 20th century, the building
was the site of the Ah-Sin Club, a club composed of elderly men
living in the Gratz Park area who met regularly and played cards.
The building was later acquired by the Lexington Parks and Recreation
department for use as a community center. Most recently, the building
has become the offices of the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation,
which continues to serve as an advocacy group for the preservation
and maintenance of area landmarks and historic buildings.
The Old Kitchen Building is located at 253 Market St. in
the Gratz Park Historic District. For more
information about the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation
please call 859-253-0362 or visit its website.
Morrison, Transylvania College
Old Morrison, Transylvania College is located on
the campus of Transylvania University. Kentucky architect Gideon
Shryock, the father of Greek Revival architecture in Kentucky,
designed and oversaw construction of the building, now a National
Historic Landmark. Shryock is also responsible for the design
of the Old State Capitol in Frankfort as well as the Arkansas
State Capitol building. The building was completed in 1834 following
the destruction of the earlier Transylvania main building by fire
in 1829. In his will, Colonel James Morrison bequeathed a sum
of $40,000-$50,000 to the University for the purpose of constructing
a new building with Henry Clay as the executor
of his will. Typical of Greek Revival architecture, the facade
of Old Morrison is graced by six large Doric columns as well as
a pair of large antepodia that flank the front, main steps. In
its early days Morrison Hall held a two-story chapel with balconies,
the academic and law departments, the school library, and a variety
of classrooms. The building also holds the crypts of two of Transylvania's
esteemed faculty: botanist Constantine Samuel Rafinesque and St.
Saveur Francois Bonfils.
In 1780, an act by the Commonwealth of Virginia Legislature
set aside 8,000 acres of confiscated British lands in the County
of Kentucky for "a public school or seminary of learning." A charter
for Transylvania College was granted by the Legislature three
years later, the first educational institution west of the Alleghenies.
At the height of it influence, during the first quarter of the
19th century, Transylvania rivaled both Harvard and Yale. It was
one of the leading universities in the country in terms of enrollment,
faculty, and resources for medical education under the presidency
of Horace Holley. Many distinguished men studied at Transylvania
including Jefferson Davis, Albert Sidney Johnston, John Hunt Morgan,
Stephen Austin, Cassius Clay, John Cabell Breckinridge, and many
During the Civil War, Transylvania was closed and Morrison College,
along with other buildings on the campus, was commandeered for
use as an army hospital, first by General Nelson of the Union
Army and later by General Smith of the Confederate forces. From
1865 until 1908 the campus was home to a college of law, a commercial
college, and a seminary, as well as the liberal arts college.
The university has remained a liberal arts college since 1915
and has seen a major growth during the last few decades. Old Morrison
was restored to its 1834 appearance following an extensive renovation
in 1961. Unfortunately, the building was gutted by fire in 1969
and a second restoration was undertaken, which included further
interior renovation to provide more administrative space. The
building still holds the administrative offices of the university
and is open to the public year round.
Old Morrison, Transylvania College, a National Historic Landmark,
is located on the campus of Transylvania University at 300 North
Broadway. Visit the website of Transylvania
University for further information.
The Constitution Historic District is one of the
earliest middle-class residential neighborhoods established in
Lexington. Today is consists of 54 primarily residential buildings.
The center of the district contains early 19th-century houses
which are bounded by commercial buildings and educational institutions.
Early residents of the district included brick masons, carpenters,
carriage makers, ministers, and bankers. A church, the Second
Street Christian Church, built in 1874-75, later became the all
black Antioch Christian Church in 1880. The congregation, led
by former slave Thomas Phillips, was one of the oldest and most
prominent among the black community of Lexington. The Church was
destroyed by fire in 1880 but rebuilt with insurance payments.
Most of the residences in the district have been
well-preserved and little altered since their construction. The
majority of houses are simple antelbullum townhouses, built for
middle-class Lexingtonians on the outskirts of the burgeoning
19th-century city. A wide variety of architectural styles can
be found in the district including Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate,
Eastlake, and Late Richardsonian. One of the oldest buildings
is the Brand-Kennedy house at 124 Constitution Street, a typical
Federal house built in 1813. A second early home is located at
216 North Limestone, built by locally prominent architect Matthew
Kennedy. The large Greek Revival residence built by James Weir
at 312 North Limestone is the most elaborate of the houses within
the district. Over the years the district has remained residential
with some small commercial development on the edges. Some of the
homes have been divided into multi-family dwellings with a few
commercial businesses interspersed throughout the district. However,
as interest in the neighborhood grows, these houses are being
The Constitution Historic District is located on the outskirts
of downtown Lexington, bounded by East Third St., North Limestone
St., Martin Luther King Blvd., and Templeman Alley. The
houses in the district are private residences and are not open
to the public.
Episcopal Burying Ground
The land upon which the Episcopal Burying Ground
lies was purchased in 1832 by Christ Church Episcopal
as a burial ground for its parishioners. The cemetery became extremely
important during the 1833 cholera epidemic during which Christ
Church lost approximately one thrid of its members. It was in
this cemetery that William "King" Solomon laid to rest dozens
of bodies when no one else would, thus elevating him to the status
of a hero. The burial ground also contains a small chapel that
was built around 1867 and is thought to have been designed by
Lexington architect John McMurtry. The small Carpenter's Gothic
style chapel later became a sexton's cottage.
Many prominent individuals were buried in this cemetery including
Mathias Shryock, father of Kentucky architecture; Colonel George
Nicholas, the father of Kentucky's constitution and the first
attorney general for the state of Kentucky; and the family of
Col. Thomas Hart who was the father-in-law of statesman Henry
Clay. Hart was also a member of Richard Henderson's Transylvania
Company that aided in opening Kentucky to settlement in the 1770s.
Following the establishment of the Lexington Cemetery in 1848
many of the bodies in the Old Episcopal Burying Ground were re-interred
in the new cemetery while many of the old headstones were left
behind. The last bodies were interred in the Episcopal Burying
Ground in the 1870s. The historic cemetery remains a peaceful,
tranquil plot of land that is reminiscent of a time when religion
played a prominent role in people's lives and when the death of
a loved one came not just from old age but from a wide variety
of illnesses and epidemics to which the cholera pandemic of 1833
is a testament. The Episcopal Burying Ground has been known by
various names since its beginning; these include Old Episcopal
Cemetery, Old Christ Church Cemetery, and the Old Episcopal Burying
The Old Episcopal Burying Ground is located at 251 East Third
St. and is still owned by Christ Church Episcopal.
The cemetery is not regularly open to the public but private tours
can be given by appointment by calling 859-254-4497.
African Baptist Church
The First African Baptist Church was founded c.1790
to serve the religious needs of African Americans in the Lexington
area. The First African Baptist Church is the third oldest black
Baptist church congregation in the United States and the oldest
in Kentucky. The first pastor of the church was Peter Durrett,
known affectionately by his congregation as Old Captain. Old Captain
immigrated to Kentucky with his master around 1785 and soon began
leading the early church where he preached the Gospel.
The site where the present First African Baptist
Church stands was originally the site of the Old Methodist Meeting
House. The property was sold to the First African Baptist Church
in 1833 under the leadership of the Reverend London Ferrill. Ferrill
was a freed slave who came to Kentucky with his wife in 1812 and
was allowed to stay here by an act of the Kentucky legislature. By 1850, Ferrill had increased the congregation from 280 to 1,820 people, making it the largest, black or white, in Kentucky. When the pastor died in 1854, his funeral procession was reputed to have been the second largest ever held in Lexington, second only to Henry
The present Italianate style church was constructed in 1856. The
large, arched windows are a testament to this style of architecture.
In the years following its construction a large stone portico
was added and a two-story parish house was constructed adjacent
to the church. The congregation of the First African Baptist Church
has since moved to another location and the building is no longer
used for church services. The church is not only significant for
its religious history, but also for the prominent role it played
in the lives of Lexington's early African Americans.
The First African Baptist Church is located at the corner
of Short and Deweese sts.
Court Historic Neighborhood District
The Bell Court Historic Neighborhood District was
developed around the turn of the 20th century as a middle-class
neighborhood near the heart of downtown. The location of the district
was pivotal because it allowed residents to walk to their jobs
downtown prior to the advent of the automobile. There are 157
buildings in the district, nearly all of which are residential
in nature. The core of the district is the historic building known
as Bell Place. This impressive home was designed by famed Lexington
architect Thomas Lewinski, who combined elements of the Greek
Revival and Romanesque styles into the design of the home. Bell
Place was donated to the city of Lexington in 1940 and the property
continues to be used as a public park to this day. The Clay Villa
is also located in the Bell Court Neighborhood and is the oldest
home in the district. The villa was constructed for James B. Clay,
son of statesman Henry Clay, in 1846.
Most of the homes in the district reflect the Victorian and Queen
Anne styles that were popular around the turn of the 20th century.
There are also many Arts and Crafts style houses that dot the
development. Visitors to the district can park their cars and
travel the way residents of the district did shortly after its
construction, by foot, and appreciate the architecture and landscape.
The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd lies in the district
at the southwest corner of East Main and Bell Court. Completed
in 1925-26, it is a sterling example of late Gothic Revival style.
Bell Court Historic Neighborhood District includes several
main streets: Bell Court, Forest Ave., Sayre Ave., Russell Ave.,
Delmar Ave., and Boonesboro Ave. The private homes within the
district are not open to the public.
Loudoun House is considered one of the largest and
finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Kentucky. It
reflects the Romantic Movement of the 1850s, which was a reflection
of the social lifestyles and opulence of the day. The house follows
a design of prominent New York architect Alexander Jackson Davis,
who published his catalog of house designs, Rural Residences,
in 1838. Davis' collaboration with author and horticulturist A.
J. Downing was the foremost influence in disseminating the Gothic
Revival style throughout the country. Loudoun was constructed
by Lexington builder John McMurtry, who helped popularize the
Gothic Revival style in the Bluegrass by constructing more than
200 buildings in this style.
The house's many towers, irregular volumes, vaults, asymmetrically
arranged lancet, diamond-paned windows as well as other picturesque
architectural features denote the Gothic Revival style. Hollow
brick walls that provided for better insulation and walls covered
with successive layers of sand and paint to resemble stone are
notable. An unusual feature is the half-tunnel, which encircles
the main foundations of the house to eliminate moisture from the
footings of the walls and give them added stability. The house
is long and shallow, its forms building up irregularly to the
principal tower to the right side of the entrance pavilion. Chimneystacks,
crenellated tower and turret, parapet walls, and pinnacles on
the important gables comprise an interesting skyline. A gymnasium
was added to the rear of the house and some of the porches have
been removed , but its sense of picturesque romanticism remains.
The residence was built for Francis Key Hunt in 1850. Francis
Key was the son of John Wesley Hunt who built the Hunt-Morgan
House. Between 1870 and 1889 Loudoun was the home of Colonel
William Cassius Goodloe who served as chairman of the national
committee of the Republican Party and was later appointed Minister
to Belgium by President Hayes. Loudoun, now situated in Castlewood
Park, is owned by the city of Lexington and houses the Lexington
The Loudoun House, now Castlewood Park, is located at 209 Castlewood Dr. The Lexington Art League office hours are Monday-Friday 8:30am to 5:00pm. For more information about the house please visit the Lexington Art League's website or call 859-254-7024.
Park Historic District
The Ashland Park Historic District is an early 20th
century residential neighborhood of primarily single-family homes.
At the time of its development the district was located at the
eastern edge of the city of Lexington. In 1904 the Clay family
hired the architectural firm of the Olmstead Brothers of Brookline,
Massachusetts, the famed family of landscape architects including
Frederick Law Olmstead Sr. and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., to draw
up plans for a residential neighborhood on the 600-acre estate.
Constructed over a 15-year period, the development was completed
around 1930. The lots sold for approximately $2,500 each, with
deed restrictions on the most prominent lots.
The development was designed to include many trees,
large areas of green-space, and curving streets with few right
angled intersections holding true to the Olmstead trademark. A
wide variety of architectural styles can be found in Ashland Park
including Colonial Revival, Craftsman, Bungalow, Tudor Revival,
Dutch Colonial Revival, Prairie, Georgian Revival, Spanish Eclectic,
French Eclectic, and Italian Renaissance, attesting to the varied
tastes and styles of the day. Ashland Park continues to be a desirable
residential neighborhood. Visitors can either drive or walk through
the neighborhood and enjoy the beautiful green spaces and varied
Ashland Park Historic District is located adjacent to Ashland,
Henry Clay Estate off of East Main St. The district is roughly
bounded by Richmond Rd., South Hanover Ave., Fontaine Rd., Woodspoint
Rd., Fincastle Rd., and Sycamore Rd. The houses in the district
are private residences and are not open to the public.
Henry Clay Estate
Famed Kentucky statesman Henry Clay built his mansion
home, Ashland, in 1812, which was designated a National Historic
Landmark on December 19, 1960. Clay was a U.S. Senator from Kentucky,
and served as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives,
the Secretary of State,and also made three unsuccessful bids for
the presidency, narrowly losing in his last attempt. Just before
his death in 1852 he helped delay the Civil War and secession
by the southern states, thus gaining the title "the great compromiser."
Clay began acquiring the 600-acre Ashland Estate in 1811 and built
his mansion house the following year. A portion of the original
home was designed by famed architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who
is also responsible for the design of the United
States Capitol building in Washington as well as the Pope
Villa, also in Lexington.
The front of the original home was graced by a detailed
Georgian entrance and a large Palladian window leading to a balcony
on the second floor. The home was flanked by two large wings giving
the mansion overall balance. The interior contained many architectural
features typical of the opulence of ante-bellum architecture.
Following Clay's death the house was deemed structurally unsound.
Clay's son razed the structure in 1857 and rebuilt the home on
its original foundation, replicating the original design, which
has been little altered since. This site has now been home to
five generations of the Clay family. Following an extensive renovation
between 1990 and 1993, many discoveries were made and many pieces
belonging to the Clay family were returned to the home. Twenty
acres of the original estate remain, which contain the gardens
and dependencies of Ashland.
Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate, a National Historic Landmark,
is located adjacent to the Ashland Park Historic
District on Sycamore Rd. off of East Main St. (Richmond Rd.),
and is now a house museum. It is open for tours Tuesdays-Saturdays
from 10:00am to 4:30pm. The tour lasts approximately one hour
but visitors should allow time to visit the Museum Store and view
the formal gardens. The estate is closed in January and on holidays.
For more information, visits Ashland's website or call 859-266-8501.
Waveland is considered one of the finest examples of Greek Revival
architecture in Kentucky. The home sits atop a small knoll surrounded
by 200 acres of Bluegrass farmland. Joseph Bryan constructed Waveland
in 1845 on a 2,000-acre tract of land "laid off" by his uncle
and frontiersman, Daniel Boone. Washington Allen, a leading Lexington
contractor of the day, was hired as builder and foreman of the
project. Later members of the Bryan family made Waveland famous
for its magnificent trotting horses.
The home contains 14 high-ceilinged rooms and spacious hallways.
A monumental pedimented Ionic portico graces the fašade. The main
doorway is topped by a frieze which is a copy of the north entrance
to the Erechtheum on the Anthenian Acropolis. The frieze is supported
by pilasters and engaged Ionic columns. The facade is framed by
brick pilasters and topped by a deep denticulated cornice.
Many outbuildings are still located on the property including
servants quarters, carpenter's shop, harnessmaker and cobbler's
shop, fireplace kitchen, print shop, country store, blacksmith's
shop, a log house, and ice house. The grounds of Waveland feature
an herb garden, flower garden, and orchard. The Commonwealth of
Kentucky purchased the property in 1956 for use as an experimental
farm and the following year Waveland was designated the Kentucky
Life Museum. The Museum, which includes historic Waveland and
its dependencies, was created for the collection, preservation,
and display of Kentucky relics, artifacts and objects that have
had some bearing upon the way in which Kentuckians have lived
through the years.
Waveland is located at 225 Waveland Museum Ln. off of US 27
(Nicholasville Rd.) in rural Fayette County. Now the Kentucky
Life Museum, the home is open for guided tours year-round, Monday-Friday
from 9:00am to 4:00pm, and Sundays from 1:00pm to 5:00pm. For
more information please call 859-272-3611.
Hill Presbyterian Church
Constructed in 1801, Walnut Hill Presbyterian Church
has the distinction of being the oldest Presbyterian Church building
in Kentucky. The church was established in 1785 to serve the religious
needs of the early pioneers. The first pastor of the church was
the Reverend James Crawford who also served as a delegate to the
Kentucky Constitutional Convention in Danville in 1792. In 1785,
Reverend James Crawford was one of two ministers ordained at the
first meeting of a presbytery in Kentucky. In 1791 he opened a
school at Walnut Hill for Latin, Greek, and the Sciences. Crawford
died in 1803 and is buried in the church cemetery.
The present building was constructed during the "great revival"
to replace an earlier log building that stood on the site. The
building is stone and as it was originally constructed had eight
square windows on two levels that allowed light to enter the sanctuary
at the ground level as well as in the galleries that surrounded
the inner room on three sides. In 1880 the church was remodeled
and eight large Gothic windows were added to replace the square
windows and the galleries were removed from the inside. The church
continues to serve as an active house of worship.
Walnut Hill Presbyterian Church is located on Walnut Hill
Rd. in southeastern Fayette County at the intersection of old
The Athens Historic District contains the remaining buildings
of an early 19th century village established in the southernmost
part of Fayette County. The village is located in the heart of
the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky. In 1775 a fort was established
by Daniel Boone one-half mile west of present day Athens. The
community of Cross Plains was founded in 1783 and renamed Athens
in 1825 after the Kentucky General Assembly chartered the town.
During the early 19th century the community boasted several manufacturing
industries including a woolen factory as well as a bagging and
rope factory. By 1860 all of the manufacturing buildings had been
destroyed by fire. Local historian Robert Peter described why
the buildings were not rebuilt in Athens: "Several destructive
fires for so small a place have visited Athens during the course
of its eventful career. In 1853-54 all the business houses on
the south side of Main Street, west of the Cleveland pike were
swept away in a single blaze. The buildings consumed were the
Bledsoe Hotel, Harvey Nelson's dry goods store, John Donnally's
store, a shoemaker's shop and a few dwellings." This description
of the fires that destroyed the main part of the town attests
to how large and thriving the community of Athens was in the early
part of the 19th century.
There are still several buildings remaining in Athens for its
early history. The Dr. Parker House is a two-story log and frame
building erected between 1780 and 1820. There is also a second
log building that has been covered by clapboards adjacent to the
Dr. Parker House. Built during the 1780s, this could be the oldest
building in Athens still standing. The Marshall Tavern is a brick
building that served as an inn and was built around 1840. The
Aubrey Inn, built c.1800, stands at the corner of Main and Cleveland
Road. Across the street from the tavern is the building that formerly
housed Flannery's store. These buildings have mostly been converted
to residential dwellings and there are few buildings that still
serve a commercial functions.
The Athens Historic District is located south of the intersection
of Athens-Boonesboro Rd. and Interstate 75 at exit 104 in southeastern
By clicking on one of these links, you can go directly to a particular
Bibliography for Lexington
Lexington Children's Literature
Links to Lexington
Tourism and Preservation
Aron, Stephen. How the West Was Lost: The Transformation of
Kentucky from Daniel Boone to Henry Clay. Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1996.
Baker, Jean H. Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography. New York
: Norton, 1987.
Basberg, Jennings. Lexington in Good Taste. New York:
McClanahan Pub House, 1990.
Bolin, James Duane. Bossism and Reform in a Southern City:
Lexington, Kentucky, 1880-1940. Lexington: University Press
of Kentucky, 2000.
Brown, Kent Masterson: ed. The Civil War in Kentucky.
New York: Da Capo Press, 2000.
Cary, Ralph. Following in Lincoln's Footsteps: a Complete
Annotated Reference to Hundreds of Historical Sites Visited by
Abraham Lincoln. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2001.
Coleman, J. Winston, Jr. The Squire's Sketches of Lexington.
Lexington: Henry Clay Press, 1972.
Coleman J. Winston, Jr. Lexington During the
Civil War. Lexington: Commercial Printing Co., Kentucky, 1938.
Current, Richard N., ed., Paul D. Escott, Lawrence N. Powell,
James I. Robertson, Jr., and Emory M. Thomas. Encyclopedia
of the Confederacy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993 (4
Deese, Wynelle. Lexington Kentucky: Changes in the Twentieth
Century. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 1998.
Heidler, David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler, eds. Encyclopedia
of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History.
Denver: ABC-CLIO, 2000 (5 Volumes).
Horwitz, Lester V. with James A. Ramage. The Longest Raid
of the Civil War: Little-Known & Untold Stories of Morgan's Raid
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Tourism and Preservation
Department of Travel, Cultural Heritage Tourism Program
Discover what the state of Kentucky has to offer at the website
for the state's Department of Travel. Use their trip planner,
peruse their travel guides and brochures, and consult the list
of festivals and events before you travel to Kentucky in person.
Grass Trust for Historic Preservation
This local non-profit advocate for historic preservation strives
to protect, revitalize, and promote the special historic places
in our community to enhance the quality of life for future generations.
It also operates several of the historic sites featured in this
Transylvania University is a distinguished liberal arts college
enrolling more than 1000 students, committed to undergraduate
students and to excellence in education.
Lexington Chamber of Commerce
A comprehensive index to travel, life, business, and services
The Kentucky Heritage Council, the State historic preservation
office, identifies, preserves, and protects the historic places
of Kentucky. The Council also maintains continually updated inventories
of historic buildings, districts, structures, objects and archaeological
sites and nominates properties to the National Register of Historic
Lexington, Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau
Official website of the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, with information about places to stay, eat, and play in Lexington, as well as a convenient trip planner.
Lexington-Fayette County Urban Government
Official local county government website.
Official state government webiste for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Trust for Historic Preservation
Learn about the programs of and membership in the oldest national
nonprofit preservation organization.
National Park Service Office
National Parks have been interwoven with tourism from their earliest
days. This website highlights the ways in which the National Park
Service promotes and supports sustainable, responsible, informed,
and managed visitor use through cooperation and coordination with
the tourism industry.
National Scenic Byways Program
This website, maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, includes information on state and nationally designated byway routes throughout America based on their archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. Visit the America’s Byways Wilderness Road Heritage Area website for more ideas.
Lexington, Kentucky: The Athens of the West, was produced
by the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Department of the Interior,
in cooperation with the Kentucky Department of Travel, Bluegrass
Trust for Historic Preservation, Transylvania University, Kentucky
Heritage Council, and the National Conference of State Historic
Preservation Officers (NCSHPO). It was created under the direction
of Carol D. Shull, Keeper of the National Register of Historic
Places, National Park Service, Patrick Andrus, Heritage Tourism
Program Manager, and Beth L. Savage, Publications Program Manager.
Lexington, Kentucky: The Athens of the West, is based on
information in the files of the National Register of Historic
Places and National Historic Landmarks collections. These materials
are kept at 800 North Capitol St., Washington, D.C., and are open
to the public from 8:00am to 12:00pm and 1:00pm to 4:00pm, Monday
The Kentucky Department of Travel conceptualized the itinerary,
guided by Carole Summers, Cultural Heritage Tourism Coordinator.
Eric Thomason, intern for the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation,
compiled all photographic and written materials and was an invaluable
asset to this project. National Register web production team members
included Jeff Joeckel, who designed the itinerary, Rustin Quaide,
and Shannon Bell (all of NCSHPO). Contextual essays were written
by Eric Thomason (Athens of the West & Lexington
Preservation), Rustin Quaide (Civil War), and Jane
Cassidy (Architecture) with the Kentucky Heritage Council.
Thanks to John Paul Strain, American Print Gallery, Farmcourt
Publishing, and especially to Transylvania University Special
Collections for their photograph contributions.