The Horse Cemetery: Hamburg’s Last Vestige of Itself

Hamburg Horse Cemetery on Sir Barton Way, Lexington. Author’s Collection.

In the shadow of the Super Walmart at Hamburg Place in northeast Lexington is a small cemetery of famed equines. Hamburg was once a massive horse farm which encompassed some 2,000 acres. The horse cemetery is seemingly all that is left of the site’s heritage.

And the horse cemetery isn’t even in its original location for it has been moved a few hundred yards from its original site which is now the parking lot for the aforementioned Walmart.

Birdseye View of Hamburg Place. U. of Ky Libraries.

The origin of Hamburg Place began in 1898, when John Madden purchased 235 acres along the Winchester Pike. Madden, a successful thoroughbred trainer and owner, named his farm Hamburg after his horse of the same name, which had been sold and the proceeds from which were used to acquire the farm. Although John Madden died in 1929, his family continued his legacy and success.

That is, until development became too tempting.

In the late 1990s, development began by Madden’s family.

Lamenting the loss, a 2000 publication by the Sierra Club suggested that “the conversion of Hamburg Place, a historic farm outside of Lexington, is emblematic of the changes that poorly planned growth is bringing to Kentucky.” The report went on to note that “where once there were 400 acres of trees and pasture there is now an Old Navy clothing franchise and lots of parking.”

Although, the names of Madden’s horses – among them Old Rosebud, Sir Barton, Alysheba, Star Shoot and Pink Pigeon – can be found on Hamburg’s street signs, it is the cemetery which is the most tangible reminder of what once occupied this massive expanse of land.

Monument to John Madden in Hamburg. Author’s Collection.

Buried here are many of the horses named above, each with a headstone in a circle around the central monument to Nancy Hanks.

Nancy Hanks was born in 1886 and named after the mother of Abraham Lincoln. Her great achievement as a trotter was a world’s record of 2 minutes, 4 seconds to the mile.

There is also a memorial, though not the gravesite, of founder John Madden. “The Wizard of the Turf” and the “Founder of Hamburg Place.”

This post contains excerpts from LOST LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY.

Lexington has dozens of well-restored landmarks, but so many more are lost forever. The famous Phoenix Hotel, long a stop for weary travelers and politicians alike, has risen from its own ashes numerous times over the past centuries. The works of renowned architect John McMurtry were once numerous around town, but some of the finest examples are gone. The Centrepointe block has been made and unmade so many times that its original tenants are unknown to natives now.

Preorder LOST LEXINGTON here