Lexington’s Historic Veterans Affairs Hospital

I call on all Americans to come together to honor the men and women who gave their lives so that we may live free, and to strive for a just and lasting peace in our world. — President Barack Obama

Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Leestown Road – Lexington, Ky.
Photo: Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc., NRHP Application.

Lexington’s Leestown Road VA Medical Center was added earlier in the year to the National Register of Historic Places. As we recognize those who gave their “last full measure of devotion” in service to our country on this Memorial Day weekend, we note this registry inclusion of a facility that has treated countless members of the armed services since it opened in 1931.

Since the Pilgrims’ war with the Pequot indians in 1636, Americans have looked to honor and support their veterans and their families. These benefits and their method of delivery has certainly evolved over the past four hundred years. In 1930, President Franklin D. Roosevelt consolidated and coordinated veterans benefits through the creation of the Department of Veterans Affairs. That same year, construction was underway at the Leestown Road facility.
The Main Building, pictured above, is an impressive four-story atop raised basement, hip-roofed, multi-bay revivalist that is centrally located at the medical center. The focus of the building’s symmetrical design is a three-bay projecting pavilion with four terra cotta pilasters beneath the all-seeing oculus in the pediment’s tympanum. Until 1950, a wood and copper cupola towered above the pediment, but it was removed in 1950 after having been twice struck by lighting leaving only the cupola’s brick base.
The Main Building is one of eleven original buildings at the medical facility’s campus. Though it remains an active center of treatment, construction and development of the campus ceased in 1950 with a total of forty-one buildings of which the Main Building remains the largest and the most ornamental. In 1934, the facility was converted to a veterans’ neuropsychiatric facility which prompted the construction of many recreational facilities on the campus including a softball field, horseshoe pits and a miniature golf course. 
Although the number of buildings at the Leestown VA have increased over the years, the overall acreage of the campus has decreased from an original 291 acres to only 135 acres today. With over 92,000 veterans in the Lexington service area, the hospital is an important component to caring for those who have served in uniform. The Leestown facility offers inpatient post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment, nursing home and hospice care, home-based primary care, prosthetics and orthotics, geriatrics, optometry, mental health, and substance abuse treatment.

Sources: NRHP Application, via Kentucky Heritage Council, VA History, VA Leestown, VA Memorial Day