Lafayette’s Frigate, L’Hermione, is Coming in America

L’Hermione on the Atlantic. L’Hermione 2015.

There can be no doubt that Kentucky, and Lexington specifically, is forever linked to the Marquis de Lafayette. The city of Lexington itself sits in Fayette County, a place named after Messr. Lafayette. Throughout the Commonwealth, place names link Kentucky to France and to America’s favorite Frenchman.

So when a tangible link to to the Marquis is coming to America, we’ll take note.

Americans, of course, recall Lafayette as being the great Frenchman who served under General Washington during the American Revolution and helped secure for our fledgling nation several great victories and, ultimately, our independence from the British crown.

Painting of the Marquis de Lafayette by Kentucky painter Matthew Jouett.
Ky. Historical Society.

Lafayette’s first arrival in the United States came in 1777 when he, at the age of 19, sailed to America against the wishes of his national government. Upon arrival, he volunteered for the Americans and here developed a bond with General Washington. Wounded the following year, he returned home to his native France where he convinced the French government to send a force to support the Americans against the British.

On this return trip, a frigate under Lafayette’s command sailed from Rochefort, France in March 1780. The ship, Hermione, crossed the Atlantic in 38 days and arrived first in Boston. Of the ship, Lafayette said that “she sails like a bird.”

“Here I am” was the message sent from Lafayette to his friend, General Washington. A 13-gun salute welcomed General Lafayette to America. Lafayette’s French troops joined Washington in the Virginia theatre where, in 1781, Lord Cornwallis was trapped at Yorktown.

The French fleet in the Chesapeake helped to encircle the British regulars and among that fleet was Hermione. Hermione would return to France in 1782 and, again in service against the British, would wreck in 1793.

A little over a quarter of a century later, General Lafayette returned to America in 1824-25 for a whirlwind tour in which the celebrated soldier of the Revolution was lauded. His tour also included the laying of many cornerstones at masonic temples, including one in Lexington.

While in Lexington, Lafayette also sat in the North Upper Street studio of painter Matthew Jouett for a portrait. The son of Jack Jouett, Matthew was considered the greatest painter of portraits west of the Alleghenies.

L’Hermione. L’Hermione 2015

Nautical stats of L’Hermione. L’Hermione 2015.

Fast forward just over two centuries from the wrecking of the Hermione, and construction on a second Hermione – L’Hermione – was begun in 1997. The new ship is an exact replica of the ship once under Lafayette’s command.

With 15 miles of rope, a crew of 242, 3 masts, 26 guns on the gundeck and another 8 on the upper deck, a system of 1,000 pulleys and a 2,200 square meter usual sail area, L’Hermione set sail last month for America.

She is currently approaching Yorktown (though she is to be celebrated and is not intent on trapping the British army).

On she’ll sail up the eastern seaboard with several ports of call. Details are available on the Voyages’ official website,

On Sunday, the voyage will be profiled on CBS Sunday Morning. You can also follow the trek of L’Hermione on Twitter @hermionevoyage.

Cue Neil Diamond. They’re “Coming to America.”

Regional Look to Blue Grass Trust’s 11 Endangered List

Photographs of Select Sites on the Blue Grass Trust’s Eleven in Their Eleventh Hour List

Each year, the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation assembles a list of historic central Kentucky properties which are threatened. For the 2015 edition of the “Eleven in Their Eleventh Hour” list, the BGT has looked primarily beyond Fayette County to sites across 11 central Kentucky counties.

The list of counties largely resembles those included in the 2006 World Monument Fund’s designation of the Inner Bluegrass Region. The Blue Grass Trust included Madison County on its “11 Endangered List” while omitting Anderson County. All Kentucky counties, however, have “at risk” structures and deserve the attention of preservationists.

The BGT’s list is a great step toward recognizing that preservation can and should occur throughout Kentucky and not only in our urban cores. The 14 structures within the 11 counties also reflect that theme.

According to the BGT, “the list highlights endangered properties and how their situations speak to larger preservation issues in the Bluegrass. The goal of the list is to create a progressive dialogue that moves toward positive long-term solutions. The criteria used for selecting the properties include historic significance, lack of protection from demolition, condition of structure, or architectural significance.”

The sites are listed below.

Bourbon County – Cedar Grove & John T. Redmon House 

Both Cedar Grove and the Redmon House are architecturally significant houses from the early 19th century. The circa 1818 John & John T. Redmon House has a steep roof more often found in Virginia than Kentucky and has lost its original one-story wings. Though both buildings are vacant, they have undergone partial renovations recently and the BGT believes these structures could be still restored.

Boyle County – Citizens National Bank & Dr. Polk House

Mostly empty for two-plus years, the Citizens National Bank building at 305 West Main Street in Danville was built in 1865 with a double storefront that housed First National Bank of Danville and a drug store. Bank-owned and listed for sale, a demolition (or partial demolition) of this structure could affect adjacent structures with which the building shares walls.  Dr. Polk House at 331 South Buell Street in Perryville sits across from Merchants’ Row and is arguably the historic landmark most in need of restoration in the downtown. Built in 1830 as a simple Greek Revival house with two chimneys and two front doors, the structure was purchased by Dr. Polk in 1850. A graduate of Transylvania University, he was the primary caretaker of wounded from the Battle of Perryville and his 1867 autobiography details the gruesome battlefield.

Dr. Polk House in Perryville, Kentucky. Photo courtesy of the BGT.

Clark County – Indian Old Fields 

Indian Old Fields in Clark County was the location of Eskippakithiki, the last known Native American town in what became Kentucky. Located on Lewis Evans’ 1755 map of Middle British Colonies, this highly important site was significantly impacted during construction of a new interchange (which opened September 2014) for the Mountain Parkway crossing KY 974 near the center of the Indian Old Fields.

The Kentucky Heritage Council noted in 2010 that “’Indian Old Fields,’ is a historic and prehistoric archaeological district of profound importance,” with 50 significant prehistoric archaeological sites identified within 2 kilometers of the interchange. These sites cover the Archaic Period (8000-1000 BC), Woodland Period (1000 B.C. -1000 AD) and Adena Period (1000-1750 AD), with several listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These include villages, Indian fort earthworks, mounds, sacred circles and stone graves. The site also has substantial ties to the famous Shawnee Chief Cathecassa or Black Hoof, Daniel Boone, and trader John Finley.

With the new $8.5 million dollar interchange now open, there are significant concerns that these sites with be under threat from pressure to further develop the area.

Fayette County – Modern Structures 

The Blue Grass Trust’s 2014 “Eleven in Their Eleventh Hour” focused on the historic resources at the University of Kentucky. Many of those included on the list (and most of those demolished) were Modern buildings designed by locally renowned architect Ernst Johnson. Research into Johnson’s work by the BGT and others such as architects Sarah House Tate and Dr. Robert Kelley was joined with education and advocacy programming focused on his architecture and legacy as a master of Modernism. This research and programming led to other efforts by the Blue Grass Trust, namely working to educate the public on the historic value of mid-century architecture.

In our continued education and advocacy effort surrounding these structures, the Blue Grass Trust lists Fayette County’s mid-century Modern architecture as endangered. Often viewed as not old enough or not part of the traditional early fabric of Lexington and surrounding areas, the Modern buildings of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s are being substantially and unrecognizably altered or demolished. It is important to recognize that buildings 50 years of age are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, a length of time deemed appropriate by the authors of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 for reflection on an era’s importance. Read more from the Kaintuckeean’s earlier post on the People’s Bank branch on South Broadway.

People’s Bank in Lexington. Photo by Rachel Alexander.

Franklin County – Old YMCA & Blanton-Crutcher Farm

Both the Old YMCA in downtown Frankfort faces potential demolition and the Blanton-Crutcher Farm in Jett are slowly deteriorating from neglect and both structures are worth saving. The 1911 Old YMCA at 104 Bridge Street in Frankfort, designed in the Beaux Arts style by a a Frankfort architect, was a state-of-the-art facility featuring a gymnasium, indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, meeting rooms and guest quarters. While a local developer is hoping to transform it into a boutique hotel, there is also a push by the city of Frankfort to demolish this structure. If saved, this could be a transformative project in our capital city. 

The Blanton-Crutcher Farm in Jett includes an architecturally and historically significant circa 1796 house built by Carter Blanton, a prominent member of the Jett farming community. In 1831, Blanton sold the farm to his nephew, Richard Crutcher, the son of Reverend Isaac Crutcher and Blanton’s sister, Nancy Blanton Crutcher. The 1974 National Register nomination for the farm notes: “The Crutchers were excellent farmers. Three generations of the family farmed the land and made improvements on the house until 1919 when the property was sold. It has remained a working farm with a large farmhouse, at its center, that has evolved over 180 years of active occupation.” In the 1880s, Washington Crutcher significantly increased the size of the house, turning it into the Victorian house that stands today (although the porches were removed due to deterioration and other modern features have been added).

Harrison County – The Handy House aka Ridgeway 

The Handy House, also known as Ridgeway, is located on US 62 in Cynthiana, KY. The nearly 200-year-old house was built in 1817 by Colonel William Brown, a United States Congressman and War of 1812 veteran. The farm and Federal-style house were also owned by Dr. Joel Frazer, namesake of Camp Frazer, a Union camp during the American Civil War. In the 1880s, the house underwent significant renovations by W. T. Handy, the owner from 1883-1916 and for whom the house remains named.

The Handy House checks almost every box when it comes to saving a structure: an architecturally and historically important house in good enough shape to rehabilitate, a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, qualification for the Kentucky Historic Preservation Tax Credit, and a group, the Harrison County Heritage Council and a descendant of the original owner, willing to take on the project. Unfortunately, the Handy House is jointly owned between the city and the county. County magistrates voted to tear it down, and the city opted not to vote on it with the hopes that the new council will come to a deal with the Harrison County Heritage Council, which has offered to purchase and restore the house as a community center. Read more from the Kaintuckeean’s earlier post on Ridgeway.

Jessamine County – Court Row 

Completed in 1881, Nicholasville’s Court Row is located right next to the Jessamine County Courthouse. Italianate in design and largely unchanged exterior-wise, Court Row is one of the most significant and substantial structures in downtown Nicholasville.

In a broad context, the listing of Court Row is a comment on the status of all the historic resources in downtown Nicholasville. Several threats exist that are culminating in drastic changes to the fabric of the town. Foremost, Nicholasville failed in 2013 to pass its first historic district, an overlay that would have encompassed the majority of the downtown and helped to regulate demolition and development. Then, within the past month, two historic structures were demolished, including the Lady Sterling House, an 1804 log cabin very close to the urban core. Additionally, Nicholasville is on the ‘short list’ for a new judicial center, the location of which has yet to be determined but will almost certainly have an effect on the downtown. Together, these threats present the potential for the loss of significant portions of Nicholasville’s charming downtown.

Madison County – Downtown Richmond 

Preservation has had a lot positive movement in Richmond. The Madison County Historical Society is active; the beautiful Irvinton House Museum is city-owned and the location of the Richmond Visitor’s Center; and the downtown contains a local historic district. Like most local historic districts (also known as H-1 overlays), though, the Downtown Richmond Historic District protects historic buildings and sites that are privately owned. That means that city- and county-owned sites are exempt from the H-1 regulations.

The potential damaging effects of this can already be seen. In February 2013, downtown Richmond lost the Miller House and the Old Creamery, two of its most historic buildings. Both were in the Downtown Richmond Historic District and on the National Register of Historic Places. Owned by the county, the buildings were demolished with the hopes of constructing a minimum-security prison on the site that would replicate the exterior façade of the Miller House, according to Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark. There are several other historic sites in the urban core that are owned by either the city or the county, leading to worry about the state of preservation in Richmond’s downtown.

Mercer County – Walnut Hall

Built circa 1850 by David W. Thompson, Walnut Hall is one of Mercer County’s grand Greek Revival houses. A successful planter and native of Mercer County, Thompson left the house and 287 acres of farmland to his daughter, Sue Helm, upon his death in 1865. In 1978, Walnut Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with two other important and similar Mercer County Greek Revival houses: Lynnwood (off KY Highway 33 near the border of Mercer and Boyle Counties) and Glenworth (off Buster Pike).

The James Harrod Trust has notified the Blue Grass Trust that the house may be under threat of demolition, as it is owned by a prominent Central Kentucky developer known to have bulldozed several other important historic buildings.

Scott County – Choctaw Indian Academy 

Located in Blue Springs, KY, off Route 227 near Stamping Ground, the Choctaw Indian Academy was created in 1818 on the farm of Colonel Richard M. Johnson, who served as Vice President of the United States under Martin Van Buren (1837–1841). The Academy was created using Federal funding and was intended to provide a traditional European-American education for Native Americans boys. (It was one of only two government schools operated by the Department of War – the other being West Point.) Originally consisting of five structures built prior to 1825, only one building – thought to be a dormitory – remains. By 1826, over 100 boys were attending the school, becoming well enough known to be visited by the Marquis de Lafayette in 1825. The school was relocated to White Sulphur Springs (also a farm owned by Colonel Johnson) in 1831. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Read more about the site from the Kaintuckeean’s earlier post on the Choctaw Indian Academy.

Remaining structure of Choctaw Indian Academy. Photo by Amy Palmer.

Woodford County – Versailles High School 

 Located on the corner of Maple Street and Lexington Pike in Versailles, the Versailles High School is a substantial structure built in 1928. The building operated as a high school for 35 years before becoming the Woodford County Junior High in 1963, operating as a middle school until being shuttered in 2005. After 77 years of continuous operation, the building has been empty for nearly 10 years.

With no known maintenance or preservation plan, concern exists that the historic Versailles High School will deteriorate from neglect and, ultimately, be demolished.

You can learn more about the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation on its website,

Kentucky’s Reputation Hurt by de Tocqueville’s Missed Opportunity

Chaumiere’s “octagon room” asserted to have been built
for Gen’l Lafayette, who never visited
Photo: Jess. Historical Society
Alexis de Tocqueville

On Dec. 5, 1831, the Ohio River froze over, making voyage impassable for Alexis de Tocqueville and his party. They disembarked at Westport, Oldham Co., Ky. and walked the cold 22 miles to Louisville. It was one of many poor experiences that during a 10-month voyage planned to determine “what a great republic is like.”

Upon reaching Louisville, the river still offered no passage and de Tocqueville experienced a large swatch of central Kentucky as he traveled south toward Nashville. His writings on Kentucky were not kind:

“Nothing in Kentucky … gives the impression of such a finished society.”

Kentuckians “are well known through the union for their violent habits.” “They seem to deserve that reputation.”


Though unimpressed with Kentucky, de Tocqueville extolled the United States in his great work, Democracy in America. In this magnum opus, he warned that “when the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.”

To avoid such darkness, we should take occasion to examine our history. A great starting point in the history of Jessamine County is the grand country estate of Colonel David Meade: Chaumiere des Praries.

A young David Meade
Photo: Rootsweb

Colonel Meade was born in Virginia, schooled in England and married a young girl from Williamsburg, Va.

He served in the House of Burgesses which was dissolved by Lord Botetourt, the then-governor of colonial Virginia. He would not again hold public office. Instead Colonel Meade acquired a significant estate on the James River. It is said that here “he practiced the fine art of landscape architecture and hospitality, and often entertained the leaders of Virginia.”

In 1796, however, Meade departed Virginia for the wilderness of Kentucky.

The year before, he had purchased about 300 acres in what is now Jessamine County. Once here, he would master that fine art of landscape architecture with his Chaumiere des Praries.

Of Chaumiere’s landscape, Meade’s granddaughter wrote: “The grounds were extensive and beautiful; at that time it was said there was not so highly and tastefully improved country seat in America. … And then the walks — the serpentine one mile around … and in a secluded nook, a tasteful Chinese pavilion. The birdcage walk was cut through a dense plum thicket, excluding the sun, and led to a dell, where was a large spring of water, and the mouth of a cave.

At this point was the terminus of the lake, and … a waterfall.”

His house guests were both frequent and notable: James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, General Charles Scott, and Zachary Taylor were all guests. Statesman Henry Clay and Transylvania University president Dr. Horace Holley were both known to regularly travel 9 miles from Lexington to the house and gardens at what is now Catnip Hill Road.

Nothing but glowing remarks of Col. Meade’s hospitality, his home, and the grounds of Chaumiere have been written. Dr. Holley wrote that “there is no establishment like this in our country.”

Chaumiere des Praries was a site to behold. Meade died in 1832 (the year after de Tocqueville traversed Kentucky); the estate sold in 1835 to a “plain practical farmer” who quickly turned the Colonel’s gardens into grazing pastures. The farmer felled trees, destroyed the parks and drained the lakes.

Neighbors, incensed, decried the “Paradise Lost.”

But how different would de Tocqueville’s impressions of Kentucky have been had he feasted at Chaumiere and strolled its grounds?

This text for this post originally appeared in the Jessamine Journal. It should not be republished without permission.

Before the Vice-Presidency, Richard M. Johnson Started the Indian School at Great Crossing on his Scott County Farm

During tonight’s (April 19, 2013) Lexington Gallery Hop, the photography of Amy Palmer will be on display at the Susan Gilliam Gallery, 312 East High Street. Amy’s photography focuses on nature,  equine and architecture, including the below photograph of the historic Indian School at Great Crossing. Visit her tonight!

Remaining Stone Dormitory from the Indian School at Great Crossing – Georgetown, Ky.
Photo: Amy Palmer (2013)

To the west of Georgetown, near the banks of the North Elkhorn Creek stands the stone remains of last remaining structure from the old Indian school established in 1825 by then-Colonel (later Vice President) Richard M. Johnson. The Indian School at Great Crossing, today referred to as the Choctaw Indian Academy had five buildings, four of which were constructed of stone; it is believed that this remaining building was a dormitory.

Roadside Historic Marker

Built into a hillside, the dormitory faces northwest. Built on three levels, the lowest level and main floor both have fireplaces and there is an ‘accessible’ upper third level to the three-bay.

As part of America’s attempt to assimilate Native Americans into American culture, the school was founded with federal assistance going to Col. Johnson to the sum of approximately $6,000 per annum – funding agreed to by a treaty between the Americans and the Choctaw Nation for the education of Choctaw children “at some point distant from the nation.” Although we look back at this era in American history with regret as it removed young Native Americans from both their lands and their traditions, the immediate reaction to the Academy was favorable as young Indians returned to their tribes educated in a trade.

When the Marquis de Lafayette visited the Bluegrass in the same year as the school opened, a large barbeque was held in his honor with an estimated 5,000 attending.

Dormitory, ca. 1972. Photo: Ann Bevins (NRHP File)

Attendance after just one year exceeded 100, including members of the Choctaw, Pottawatomie, Creek, and Chickasaw nations (as well as some local farm boys). An 1838 student log indicated that the Cherokee, Seminole, Prarieduchien, Chicaga, Miami, and Quapaw tribes were also represented at the Academy.

Ultimately, the school closed in 1843. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The black-and-white photo, taken by Ann B. Blevins and extracted from the National Register application, shows the condition of the property in 1972, when cattle freely roamed into the lower level while hay and farm tools were stored in the upper floors. A side-by-side comparison of the 1972 photo with Amy Palmer’s 2013 photo shows some significant structural decay during the intervening forty years.

The Kaintuckeean previously visited only the historic marker of this old Academy, not believing that anything could be found two miles from the marker. Now we know. 

Freemasonry in Kentucky and Lexington Lodge #1

The location of Central Christian Church – Short and MLK (nee Walnut) streets – was the site of the first Masonic activities in Kentucky. On April 3, at 5:30 p.m., the historic late 19th century Central Christian Church will be opened for the Blue Grass Trust deTour. More information is available on Facebook. Learn about the location’s history before it was a church below.

Old Masonic Hall – Lexington, Ky.
Source: KDL

After the fear of Indian attacks was diminished, Lexington began to grow as a community. Soon, the city contained more than pioneering woodsmen but craftsmen and tradesmen. Too came Virginians and others with land grants for their service during the Revolution. With them, came freemasonry. The Masons are a fraternal order which originated in Europe in the late 16th century and the earliest lodges were already operating in Pennsylvania by 1730. And the earliest names associated with Lexington were freemasons: Levi Todd. Robert Patterson. John Maxwell.

Seals of the Lexington Lodge and the
Grand Lodge of Kentucky. Source: Lex. Lodge 1

A short collection of Masons assembled in Lexington sought to have a lodge of their order in a location more convenient than across the mountains in the older portion of Virginia. On November 17, 1788, the Grand Lodge of Virginia issued a new charter “at the town of Lexington, district of Kentucke … to Richard Clough Anderson, John Fowler, Green Clay and others to hold regular lodge Free Masons at the town of Lexington, by the name, title and description of the Lexington Lodge No. 25.” It was the first lodge located west of the mountains.

In 1794, a primitive log masonic temple was erected. It was replaced in 1796 by a greater, two-story brick structure at the same site. Soon, the distance from Richmond, Va. again became an issue of impracticality. Though Kentucky achieved statehood eight years earlier, the Lexington Lodge #25 and other regional lodges continued to meet under their Virginia charters. And so in the autumn of 1800, representatives from the various lodges in Kentucky met at the Lexington temple and organized the Grand Lodge of Kentucky. A plaque marks this occasion on the exterior of Lexington’s Central Christian Church.

The old Lexington Lodge #25 was rechartered under the Grand Lodge of Kentucky as Lexington Lodge #1 in recognition of it being the oldest lodge in Kentucky.

A March 1819 fire destroyed the two-story brick temple, whereafter “a sum of money was raised, sufficient to rebuild the lodge hall; and such has been the zeal and activity of the superintendents, that the rafters for the roof, were raised this day. A spacious suite of rooms fifty six by thirty, is being raised, which when completed, will render it one of the most roomy and elegant structures in the city.” (Ky. Gazette, Sept. 3, 1819).

The next five years seem to be a mystery for in 1824, it was decided to build a “handsome building” with “commodious edifice” “which would stand for all ages and should, in some degree, indicate to posterity the state of the arts at he period of its erection.” Due to events described below, I believe this 1824 structure was on a site different than the lodge temples described above which is at Walnut and Short.

Architect Matthew Kennedy oversaw the construction as the cornerstone was laid on July 1 of that year. During construction, Freemason General Marquis de LaFayette visited the city of Lexington and the new temple.

Lafayette, a member of the Masonic Order, was royally entertained by his brethren and citizens of Lexington, and a Masonic Ball was given in his honor in this partially completed building. Lafayette took his seat at the banquet table in front of a large castellated cake, surmounted by the American and French flags, and covered with Masonic designs. This cake was the splendid workmanship of his fellow-countrymen, the well known restaurant-keeper and culinary artist Mathurin Giron, immortalized by James Lane Allen in his “King Solomon of Kentucky.”

After a bounteous repast was served and suitable speeches and toasts for the occasion delivered, the remainder of the evening was devoted to dancing to the strains of Anton Phillipe Heindrick’s masterpieces. The dancing lasted far into the night, but the old general, still lame from the wound he received in the war, was able to tread out but a few of the measures, and left the hall about eleven o’clock “to indulge in those thoughts and feelings which must occupy the mind of such a benevolent man, and which must consecrate his day to peace and happiness, and the day was over for him.”

Next morning, General Lafayette and his suite attended a Masonic breakfast in the grand hall, where he was addressed by John Ward: “Excellent and venerated Brother! Patron of our Country and of National Freedom wherever man exists – The Fraternity of Masons in Lexington greet and welcome you!” General Lafayette’s visit to Lexington was less than two days, yet in that short space he was elaborately entertained in the Masonic Hall on two occasions.

Dedication of the three-story building occurred on October 26, 1826, massively over-budget. A number of lotteries were held to raise funds to pay off the Order’s debts from construction. Dr. Lewis Marshall of Woodford County had the winning ticket in a significant $20,000 lottery. Demanding payment in gold, and sufficient gold not being available to pay the man from Woodford, Marshall was issued a mortgage on the hall. On the mortgage, he foreclosed.

The headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky was relocated to Louisville in 1833 during Lexington’s cholera epidemic. On August 29, 1835, a fire was found in a carpenter’s shop at the rear of the building. Despite the  valiant efforts of several fire brigades, the temple lodge along with her archives, furniture and jewels were lost. All of these events occurred to the detriment of local lodge activity, and all while a national tide of anti-masonry sentiment swept several lodges and some grand lodges from existence. Membership dwindled.

Lexington Lodge #1. Source: Ranck’s Guide to Lexington.

Despite all odds, the Lexington Lodge #1 overcame and rebuilt on the site of its original log meeting house. The cornerstone was laid on July 3, 1840 and a the building dedicated September 1, 1841. The fate of this building was unfortunate, as well. Seized by Union forces during the Civil War, it was used as a hospital, recruiting station and eventually as a prison. The building fell into disrepair and could not recover.

The old Masonic Hall fell into disrepair and was demolished in December 1891. Title to the land passed to Central Christian Church whose cornerstone was dedicated in August 1893. Within the cornerstone “contains contents of era” and “is the same piece of rock that came out of the old Masonic Temple.”

Sources: Grand Lodge of KY; Lexington Lodge #1

NoD: A Maysville Mansion, Phillips Folly

Maysville, KY
Phillips Folly – Maysville, Ky.

William B. Phillips began construction in 1825 of what was considered to be the largest home in Maysville. With twelve rooms, including six bedrooms, the home was built on a mortarless foundation – the condition of which continues to be examined for its quality. Without a doubt, Phillips was excited about his mansion; it is altogether likely that when the Marquis de Lafayette visited Maysville in 1825 that Phillips, who was in the receiving party, took the opportunity to show the Frenchman his plans. Yet, excitement is insufficient to bring about completion.

In 1828, the house was not completed and Phillips had insufficient funds to finish. Townspeople referred to the property as “Phillips’ Folly” for he had built beyond his means a home too grand. Without a word, Phillips left Maysville only to return two years later having won sufficient monies while gambling in New Orleans to finish his home. The house was finally completed in 1831 and is an amalgam of several architectural styles: a Federal façade, a Georgian two-story portico, stepped parapets in the “Dutch” or German tradition, windows attributed to the Greek Revivalist style and other qualities introduced after Phillips’ years in New Orleans.

When the cholera epidemic of 1833 swept through the region, it took with it the first mayor of the Maysville; Phillips was chosen to become the second mayor of Maysville. In 1838, Phillips’ sold his “folly” to John Armstrong who died in the home in 1851. It is said that his ghost, and that of his laborador, still haunt the Sutton Street mansion.

Maysville, KYArmstrong’s son, Francis Armstrong, acquired the property after his father died. Francis was believed to have been an operative on the underground railroad. In a house where basement wooden cell likely originally held captive slaves, the mansion became a symbol of freedom as the last stop for the weary before crossing the Ohio River into freedom. A tunnel from the home to the river would have brought the slaves to a small dinghy in which to cross the river.

During occupancy by the Finch family from 1890 to 1894, a man named Pearce visited the house and is said to have committed suicide there. Others, however, have suggested that suicide was simply a cover for Pearce’s death: he had been killed in a duel at a time when dueling had been made illegal in the Commonwealth. Those who have seen his apparition have also heard the formalities of dueling in the back stairs.

After the Fitch family left, Dr. John Reed moved his family from the small Mason County hamlet of Minerva to Phillips Folly in  1894. Dr. Reed established a medical practice in the basement. His son, Stanley, was ten years old when the family moved in; young Stanley would leave for school eight years later and would eventually be appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court.

With all its history, Phillips Folly is open for tours particularly because of its role as a station on the Underground Railroad.

Maysville OnlineNRHP; Precious TimesWikipedia

walkLEX: Bodley-Bullock House Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts

Bodley Bullock House
Bodley-Bullock House – Lexington, Ky.

Built for Mayor Pindell, the house at 200 North Market Street was sold yet inhabited to Col. Thomas Bodley. Bodley came to Lexington a hero of the War of 1812, was clerk of the court when he admitted Henry Clay to the practice of law, and greeted Gen. LaFayette on the Marquis’ 1825 arrival to Lexington, but Bodley would lose this three-story Federal style townhouse to his mortgagee, the Bank of the United States, during the financial Panic of 1819.

The Federal townhouse took a Greek Revival appearance later in the 19th century as other owners added a Doric entrance porch and two-story portico to the northern side of the house which faces the garden.

During the Civil War, the house was occupied at different times by both Union and Confederate troops.

In 1912, the house was purchased for $11,000 by Dr.Waller O. Bullock and his wife, Minnie. Dr. Bullock was the co-founder of the Lexington Clinic which remains one of Lexington’s top healthcare providers, but it is “Miss Minnie” whose story continues to be a part of the home’s history. (She also played a great role in Lexington’s civic and cultural history.)

Miss Minnie passed in 1970 leaving the home in trust to Transylvania University and the property has been maintained since by the Junior League of Lexington. But Miss Minnie remains in the house.

The house, frequently rented for weddings and other events, has a magnificent staircase used for bridal photographs. A few negatives have appeared with the bride … and another woman and child.  The child often would come over from the park and talk to Miss Minnie, and it appears she still does.

At another wedding, the guests lingered a bit too long for Miss Minnie’s tastes and so the lights in the foyer turned on and off. As the story goes, the chandelier did not just dim but fully turned on and off… four times. Yes, Miss Minnie continues to show her preferences even after death.

But her greatest preference was her lifestyle as a teetotaler. She allowed no alcohol in the house during her life, and she prohibited it in her will after her death. So how is it that the venue is among Lexington’s most popular for weddings? The trustees overseeing the house changed her will to allow for visitors to consume alcohol. The decision was made in a boardroom on the second floor of the house. The morning after the decision was made, a large crack was found in the glass covering the boardroom table with no evidence of any cause. Yes, Miss Minnie was not pleased.

Certainly, wedding guests have been pleased with the changed. And so too is King Solomon, the town drunk who was the hero of the 1833 cholera plague. A painting of his likeness, purchased by Dr. Bullock, still hangs in the home’s gallery.

Miss Minnie never liked the painting, either.

Bodley Bullock House Bodley Bullock House Bodley Bullock House
Bodley Bullock House
Bodley Bullock House Bodley Bullock House
more pictures of the Bodley-Bullock House on flickr

Sources: BizLexDunn’s Old Houses of LexingtonNRHP (Gratz Park)Southern Spirit GuideStories from the Haunted SouthVisitLex

No Destination: Choctaw Indian Academy

Choctaw Indian Academy
Choctaw Indian Academy, Scott County, Ky.

I’m realizing that photographs of historic markers probably aren’t as enjoyable for you as pictures of buildings, landscapes, etc.  So I tried to make this one a little more artistic. And if I for a minute actually thought that the old academy still existed, I would have trekked the two miles to find it. That said, I figured it was long gone. I may be mistaken as I was able to find pictures at

The History of Scott County, Kentucky provides an account of the indian school:

Lafayette in his tour of the country in that year, (1825) visited it at Blue Springs, and a great feast was prepared for him by the neighborhood, the ladies making a cheese for the occasion weighing 500 pounds. In 1831 the school was removed from Blue Springs to White Sulphur Springs, which was also on a farm owned by Col. Johnson . . . There were generally from two to three hundred Indian boys in attendance, and it brought a considerable revenue to Col. Johnson’s exchequer. Some of the boys afterward filled prominent positions in the country—several became preachers of the Gospel.

Several other of the indian boys would becomes chiefs of their respective tribes. The Col. Johnson mentioned above was Col. Richard Mentor Johnson who would serve as Vice President from 1837-1841 during the administration of President Martin Van Buren. There is some controversy surrounding Johnson’s establishment of the school and his intentions; it seems that he was quite good as securing government contracts, including the establishment of the school.

An 1838 student log shows students from several tribes: Choctaw, Potawatomi, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, Prarieduchien, Chicaga, Miami, and Quapaw. The school ultimately closed when financial support from the tribes dried up (they were being forced west into Oklahoma). The OSU Digital Library is a  tremendous source of information about the Academy.

My flickr for Choctaw.

No Destination: LaGrange

Main Street in historic La Grange, Kentucky

As Nate alluded to last week, we visited Oldham County’s seat a few weeks ago. Founded in 1827, this community community was not incorporated until 1840. Named for the home of General Lafayette (the Château de la Grange-Bléneau), some suggest that LaGrange is severely haunted and may be part of the so-called “Fayette Factor.” (An anomaly that I’ve discovered and intend on researching at length.).

DeHaven Baptist Church

I think what stands out about La Grange is that it remains a thriving community. Despite a population of less than 5,700 (2000 Census), La Grange’s downtown is filled with active and successful businesses. Remarkable for a town of its size, particularly in our current economic downturn. Pictured above is Main Street with several of the businesses visible: Karen’s Book Barn, the Red Pepper Deli and Cafe, the 1887 Corner Store. A great toy store. Unfortunately, we visited on a Sunday and many of the shops were closed.

Several of Kentucky’s towns emphasize history and La Grange certainly counts itself among this class. The Historical Society has preserved churches and other historical structures (its HQ consists of an entire city block!) One of the most architecturally impressive structures is the DeHaven Baptist Church (pictured at right).