Floral Hall a Fascinating Treasure in Lexington

Floral Hall in 1966.  Photograph by John Noye. National Register Application

If you pause to look down Red Mile Road as you cross the path’s intersection with South Broadway, you have no doubt seen the iconic Floral Hall. It is a treasured landmark of Lexington, though its very likely you’ve never been inside.

Designed by John McMurtry and completed in 1882 as a two-story octagonal building, the structure was added to a year after its completion with the addition of a third level. The building was commissioned by the Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical Fair Association using funds appropriated to it by Congress for damages caused by Union troops during the Civil War.

The structure was named “floral hall” because it originally was a floral exhibition hall. Its use adapted over the years. The site’s brochure states that “when the city of Lexington expanded its boundaries, the city line cut through the grounds of the adjacent Red Mile trotting tack. Floral Hall remained outside the city limits, so the betting pools, the form of wagering on the races during that time, were conducted there.”

Inside Floral Hall. Peter Brackney.

Beginning in 1896, the structure became known as the Round Barn as it was then used for the stabling of horses. Stalls were built on both the first and stories, while the horses’ caretakers had quarters on the third level.Following a 1963 renovation, the building was converted into a museum housing American Standardbred horse memorabilia and equine archives.

Today, the building is known as the Standardbred Stable of Memories and is owned by a non-profit dedicated to the preservation of this historic landmark. Earlier this year, Kathryn Glenn McKinley and Kitty Sautter received The Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation’s Barbara Hulette Award for their preservation and continued use of the building, as well as the restoration of its cupola and its three-story chandelier. At right, you can see the grand chandelier hanging from the ceiling high above the ground floor.

The structure is beautiful and its history grand. Standardbred racing, sometimes overshadowed by thoroughbred racing, is extremely popular and its history, too, is strong in our region. Stabled here were the horses of Hall of Fame trainer tom Berry, including Hamiltonian and Hanover’s Bertha. Other greats stabled at the Round Barn include world champion Merrie Annabelle and Greyhound.

From the #BGTdeTours Facebook page, Blue Grass Trust Vice President John Hackworth invites you to experience the “fascinating treasure within our city,” Floral Hall: