Regifting a Relic from the Spanish-American War

Cannon on the front lawn at UK. UK Libraries

An oft-forgotten conflict in American history, the Spanish-American War was one of only five wars in the nation’s history to be formally declared by Congress. Lasting only three months in 1898, the island of Cuba served as the conflict’s main theatre.

The final battle of the war was staged in the hills to the immediate east of Santiago and it acquired the name The Battle of San Juan Hill. A month after the battle, a dispatch was sent from the Secretary of War to General Shafter in Cuba requesting that “a lot of old brass cannon, old style, at Santiago, captured by you.”

These many cannons were ultimately distributed by the War Department throughout the country. One in particular has since 1903 been on the grounds of the University of Kentucky, though it didn’t arrive directly but was instead “regifted” through multiple hands before arriving in front of the University’s Main Building.

Author’s collection

The stock of the UK cannon bears the markings of Barcelona, Spain and a date from October 1795. Over a century later, the war was fought and the old style cannons were captured by the U.S. War Department. According to UK, the cannon was presented to the Commonwealth of Kentucky which in turn gave the cannon over to Lexington Mayor Henry T. Duncan. It is unclear how the Commonwealth fits into the picture, as the majority of other accounts reflect that the cannon was on loan from the War Department to the City of Lexington “as a souvenir.”

The engraving on the limestone block that supports the cannon, nearly illegible now from the years, reads:

Spanish trophy Federalista, received from the United States War Department by City of Lexington, June 18th, 1900. Transferred to State College of Kentucky. May 19th, 1903, through Mayor Henry T. Duncan.

Immediately after its receipt by Lexington, the cannon was displayed at an Elks Fair. After the fair, the Federalista (as it would be nicknamed because of an engraving on the barrel of the cannon) was promptly deposited under an American flag in a warehouse on Upper Street and both forgotten and nearly lost for a years time. According to contemporary newspaper accounts, the people of Lexington (and Mayor Duncan) had no conviction about where to place the war relic. A proposal to place the cannon at Cheapside near the old courthouse drew at least one letter to the editor of the Lexington Leader:

I think it will be a great mistake to place the Spanish cannon on Cheapside, as has been suggested in the paper. All of the city of Lexington is not concentrated on Cheapside, and the few statues or ornaments should not all be huddled together and crowded into one little space. One detracts from the other, and such statues or mementos as Lexington may be preserved.

By May of 1903, Mayor Duncan determined that the State College (later known as UK) would be a fitting site for the cannon. Installed on May 19, 1903, the Lexington Leader had this to say about the installation ceremony:

One of the prettiest ceremonies ever performed at State College was the unveiling of the cannon this afternoon, presented by the city of Lexington. The large crowd present showed the high esteem in which State College is held by the people of Lexington, and the cadet battalion in their gray blouses and white duck trousers made a natty appearance on parade.

The Federalista after a prank. UK Libraries
On campus, the Federalista became a backdrop for “picture-taking and campus hazing activities.” Campus lore suggests that it was fired after wins by the Wildcats and photographic evidence shows it being toppled. Reports of it being pivoted toward the Main Building and filled with manure before being fired exist as to suggestions that Main Building windows were at many times broken from the blasts of the cannon. As a result of either the truth or threat of these things, or a combination thereof, the cannon was cemented in several decades ago. 
The August 28, 1942 issue of the Kentucky Kernel indicates that the student-run newspaper spearheaded a campaign to have the relic from the Spanish-American war scrapped as part of the WWII war effort. The effort was not unique. Across the country, national fervor during World War II prompted the smelting of many historic relics with the proceeds being used for war bonds and the metal finding its way into the war effort as well. This, too, was the case with a cannon in Bloomington, Illinois which shares the history and profile of the cannon at the University of Kentucky. Both barrels were made at Barcelona and appear identical. The Bloomington cannon barrel  weighed “5,695 pounds of which 80 percent was copper, 10 percent tin, 8 percent lead and the remaining amount silver.” One can presume that the UK cannon has the same statistics. 
Fortunately, the cannon remains on campus. Its green hue – that of tarnished brass – has endured as well. In 1934, the Kentucky Kernel suggested that the University might be benefited by making the cannon “sensational. … Steps should be taken by the proper authorities on the campus to have the green coat removed and the shining natural color of the brass take its stead.” 
“That piece of rare war machinery faces a muchly traveled highway and were it gleaming in the sunlight it would catch the eye of more than one tourist who would stop a few minutes to inspect it and then visit the remainder of the campus. The advertising value of this would well repay for the shining of the weapon of former days.” 

A Lunchtime Walk Through Lexington’s History

One of the best ways to explore any city is by foot. In the springtime, I love to take advantage of the opportunity to walk around downtown Lexington during lunch. Sometimes my walks are solitary while at times others join me on my walks.

Recently, I had a terrific 2.5 mile lunchtime walk at points due west of downtown. Armed with a camera and a bagged lunch, I began walking. These walks always take me past places previously profiled (see the links below) and places that I’d like to learn more about!

My office is near the site of Asa Blanchard’s silversmith shop at Cheapside and I was intent on taking a closer look at the People’s Bank on South Broadway before Sarah Tate’s talk yesterday at the Thomas Hunt Morgan House.

After walking around the People’s Bank and appreciating the 1960s modern architecture, I walked behind the Historic Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church and realized I still have never profiled this historic place on this site.

I then began walking down toward DeRoode Street. I’ve often passed the Carver Community Center, 522 Patterson Street, and wondered its backstory.

Carver Community Center.

According to the Kentucky Architectural Survey

The site’s history begins with nearby Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church, which established one of the first schools for African Americans in the basement of its “old” church building in 1874. Within a decade, enrollment swelled to 108 students so a church committee raised $900 to purchase a lot for construction of Patterson Street School (site of present day playground). Opened in 1883, Patterson was built within twenty feet of noisy and dangerous railroad tracks. In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration provided funds for construction of George Washington Carver Elementary School, which served neighborhood students from 1934 until 1972.

The area below the Carver Community Center, once part of the Davis Bottom neighborhood, remains largely though work is ongoing to extend Newtown Pike/Oliver Lewis Way through this once-residential area. New homes are being constructed and temporary roads (like Whitmer Way) have been added to accommodate mobile housing units). And it’s possible to sneak a glance at parts of UK’s campus, too, from this nook of Lexington.

UK’s POT visible from an abandoned space on Patterson Street.

According to the Kentucky Heritage Council

Davis Bottom is a residential community located just southwest of downtown Lexington. Established in the 1860s, Davis Bottom served as a portal community after the Civil War for African Americans, Appalachians and Europeans who migrated to urban centers in search of homes and jobs. The community of Davis Bottom is going through its greatest transition due to construction of the Newtown Pike Extension and the Southend Park Redevelopment Project.

The area was once filled with shotgun houses, the decline of which style I’ve recently noted on this site’s Demolition Watch series. After crossing under the Versailles Road viaduct – a road seemingly more massive from beneath – I passed the location of the old Abraham Lincoln Elementary School (another to-be-covered subject).

After leaving the remnants of Davis Bottom and Irishtown, I emerged in what is today known as the Distillery District. Crossing the Oliver Lewis Way Bridge, I looked west once again at the RJ Corman Railyard, the Town Branch and (in the distance) the statue of Henry Clay that stands high above his grave at the Lexington Cemetery.

Walking down West Short Street back to the office is, as always, a trip down memory lane. After all, it was here that I grew up in what was my old Kentucky home. The Historic Western Suburb was platted in 1815 – 200 years ago – and is today one of Lexington’s most beautiful historic districts.

So this springtime, explore Lexington (or your community) for all its glory!

225 Years of Ministry: Lexington’s First United Methodist Church

Reflection of the First United Methodist Church. Author’s collection

The First United Methodist Church on High Street was built in 1907, though the church’s ministry in central Kentucky extends much further into history. In fact, this year marks the congregation’s 225th year of ministry.

Originally known as the Lexington Society of Methodists when it was begun by Francis Poythress, an elder and circuit rider who had evangelized in the area since 1788. According to Collins’ 1847 History of Kentucky,

As a preacher, few in those days excelled him. His voice was clear and musical; his knowledge of the scriptures vast and accurate; his sermons bedewed with his tears in his closet, fell as the dews of life upon the hearts of his congregation; sinners trembled before the Lord, and the keen flash of the Spirit’s sword was felt passing all through the soul, discerning by its brightness, the “thoughts and intents of the heart.”

In 1790, Poythress invited Francis Asbury to Kentucky and Asbury then preached at the first Methodist conference in Kentucky which was hosted on the property of Richard Masterson about five miles from Lexington. A remaining parcel of this land remains undeveloped as Masterson Park.

The 1789 Lexington church first began on the east end of town and is considered the first Methodist church west of the Allegheny Mountains. It is also one of the first 100 Methodist Churches in America.

But during the early 1800s, the church outgrew its location. A lot was purchased on Hill Street (now known as High Street) and a new church was constructed in 1840. Expansion again occurred twice, but by 1900 the Lexington Methodist Church had again outgrown itself.

So in 1907, the old church building was razed in favor of the present structure which sits on the same site. The cornerstone of the present church was laid on January 13, 1908 and the church was dedicated a year later on January 10, 1909.

The cost to build the 700-seat Methodist Church was $65,000 and the Columbus, Ohio architecture firm of Richards, McCarty and Buford were hired for the project.

The building on High Street has had several additions over the past century and the congregation has begun a number of missions which have become churches in their own right. The church history, posted on the church’s website, concludes that even into “its third century, First United Methodist Church continues its mission to invite, equip and deploy faithful followers of Jesus Christ across the street and around the world.”

A New Sign (A New Landmark?) in Downtown Lexington

New Signage O’er The Square in Lexington, Ky. Author’s collection.

A new landmark was installed within the past week days in Lexington, and it hasn’t been without some controversy. Above the old Victorian Square development downtown, new signage identifies the block’s new identity as “The Square.”

On social media, the font and design of the new signage has been blasted by some while others approve of the vintage-looking sign. It rests atop a block of structures which date to the 1870s and 1880s.

Main Street façade circa. 1976. Photo from Lexington-Fayette Historic Commission.

The façades, plus some interior walls, of these historic commercial structures were preserved when the spaces were converted into a downtown shopping block and labeled Victorian Square. The structures along Broadway have more architectural detail on their façades than those on Main Street, but the entire block is a well-done reuse of space.

Nearly all buildings on the block are three-story in height and the gaps between each have been “filled in” with entrances to the central interior courtyard developed as part of the large commercial space.

Preserving the block a century later was a key step in saving a section of Lexington’s identity, though during the same period entire blocks of similar structures were razed to create Triangle Park, the Lexington Center, and Rupp Arena. In the nomination of the block to the National Register of Historic Places, the block was described as

Markings for the old Victorian Square, rebranded as
The Square. Author’s collection

a very important block visually and commercially in downtown Lexington. Its buildings were constructed for use as commercial structures mostly in the 1970s and ’80s at a time when the citizens of Lexington were prospering and trade was lively. The Block reflects those times. It has the same profile and charm as it did then as well as having many of the same kinds of businesses it had in earlier years. Time has passed by; many of its Victorian embellishments such as bracketed storefronts, ornate hood molds, pressed tin ceilings and tiled stoops survive.

Commercially, Victorian Square never thrived. Recently, the development has been rebranded as “The Square.” Signage has been going up to note the development which is seeing a major shift in occupants with newcomers Urban Outfitters, Alumni Hall, and a myriad of new restaurants recently opening (or preparing to open) their doors.

Donation reunites two parcels of Hunt-Morgan history

Thomas Hunt Morgan House – Lexington, Ky. Blue Grass Trust.

At Second and Mill streets is the home built by John Wesley Hunt, Hopemont, that later became known as the Hunt-Morgan House. Around two corners from Hopemont’s iconic Palladian window is 210 North Broadway.

The latter building has been home to the Woman’s Club of Central Kentucky since 1965, but both the building and that organization have longer lineages. WCCK is now celebrating its 120th anniversary and in celebration has “made an extraordinary preservation gift to the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation.”

In 1870, 210 North Broadway was built for Capt. Charlton Hunt Morgan and his wife, Mrs. Ellen Key Morgan. At the helm of design and construction was one of the finest architects of time and place, John McMurtry. The land on which the Hunt’s built was once a part of Hopemont’s more significant acreage. It has been announced that WCCK is donating the North Broadway property to the Blue Grass Trust. The BGT, already the owner of the Hunt-Morgan House on North Mill, will reunite these two parcels again under common ownership.

Historic marker outside 

Born at Hopemont in 1866, Thomas Hunt Morgan was a young boy when his parents moved into 210 North Broadway. It was here that young Thomas began to show his interest in biology and naturalism as he gathered birds, birds’ eggs and fossils.  By the age of 16, he was enrolled at the State College, later the U. of Kentucky, from which he would graduate as the valedictorian in 1886.

A professorship at John Hopkins University was followed by the same at Columbia University. While at Columbia, Dr. Morgan created his infamous “fly room.” Using the inexpensive and fast breeding species, he studied heredity at a chromosomal level.

In 1933, Dr. Morgan received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “his discoveries concerning the role played by chromosomes in heredity.” He was the first Kentuckian to receive the Nobel Prize and he is known as the “Father of Modern Genetics.”

After earning his Nobel Prize, Dr. Hunt was named the president of Caltech. He would pass away in 1945 in Pasadena, California.

His childhood home at 210 North Broadway would forever bear his name as the Thomas Hunt Morgan House. Over the years, various additions have been made to the property as it has seen various uses since it was the Morgan family residence. Specifically, an auditorium (ca. 1912) and dining hall (ca. 1970) have left many more square feet than originally included in the McMurtry design.

The buildings future is secure as it will become the new home for the Blue Grass Trust in the spring of 2015.

Robert Tharsing’s Room With A View

Robert Tharsing’s “Room With A View” Exhibit. Author’s collection.

Circumstances caused me to enjoy several trips down the long corridors of the Chandler Medical Center. Enjoy? Well, if life gives you lemons then it is best to make lemonade.

In designing the new hospital, great steps have been taken to make it a beautiful place. During the week, musicians perform in the library. And art is everywhere.

Painting of the Old Courthouse by Robert Tharsing
Ann Tower Gallery.

Along one hallway that connects the new hospital to the traditionally-institutional old hospital is a display of art by UK art professor Robert Tharsing.

Tharsing’s “Room With A View” stems from the artist’s time living in a flat above Cheapside Bar & Grille during the 1990s. At the time, Tharsing also maintained a studio near High and Rose Streets.

In moments of thought, the artist would stare out his windows.

And his paintbrush followed his eyes to create scenes of downtown Lexington that transcend time.

“The paintings in this exhibition literally and elegantly depict one artist’s brief view of a small corner of the Earth in all its beautiful banality” reads the card describing the display.

The noble old courthouse stands proudly in the heart of downtown with the autumnal leaves of Cheapside Park beginning to change colors. Other paintings depict snowy streets capes.

Interestingly, the last time I took the opportunity to appreciate the hospital’s rotating art collection the same space featured on display a collection of Robert Tharsing’s daughter, Lina Tharsing, “Making a New Forest.”

Painting of an Interview of Gatewood Galbraith.
Ann Tower Gallery.

One of my favorites in the 14-piece exhibit is that of a tv reporter interviewing Gatewood Galbraith at the corner of Cheapside and Short Streets. The attorney and perennial political candidate was as much a fixture of downtown as anything until he passed away in 2012.

In my email signature, I have a quote from Gatewood that speaks to the purpose of art in healthcare. “Make a resolution to lift someone’s spirit each day and follow through with it.” That was Gatewood’s mission and a few minutes with Tharsing’s simple collection is sufficient to raise one’s own spirits.

Postcards of the collection can be purchased online from Institute 193 or in person at Ann Tower Gallery or the Morris Book Shop.

The Historic Home of the Lexington Diner

Lexington Diner in the ca. 1806 Warfield Building. Author’s Collection.
Lexington Diner on Urbanspoon

Earlier this year, the Lexington Diner opened in the historic Dr. Walter Warfield Building at the southeast corner of Short and Upper streets. The Diner changed the culinary landscape of the corner as it abandoned the perfunctory diner fare that had been served from the site for decades. By raising standards and including locally raised ingredients and homemade dishes, the Lexington Diner has become a favorite for those living and working downtown.

It historic location is directly across from the old courthouse in the Dr. Walter Warfield Building which was built around 1806.

Dr. Warfield was a noted surgeon from the Revolutionary War from Maryland who ultimately settled in the Bluegrass as a “highly esteemed and excellent citizen.” As with any “esteemed and excellent citizen” of the day, Warfield amassed significant land holdings in the region.

From his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Christian Dickerson, Warfield purchased 1,000 acres in 1805. This land was situated in what is now both Fayette and Scott counties. Ms. Dickerson had inherited the land from her father (William Christian) in 1786; he had acquired the land (and 8,000 other acres) by grant from Virginia Governor Patrick Henry in 1779. After being sold, inherited, and divided, these acres have had a storied history with storied names in the equine industry. Today, however, much of Warfield’s acreage is now owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky as part of the Kentucky Horse Park.

Warfield Building through the lens of Asa Chinn, ca. 1920-21. NRHP.

Downtown, Dr. Warfield had built a two-story brick building in the late-Georgian style. An 1870 remodel added the notable Mansard roof and dormers creating a third-story. A number of changes through the years have made it difficult to imagine the building’s original appearance, but some clues linger. The stone belt-course between the first and second floors, the lovely keystones over the second-story windows, and a sliver of the original stone water-table remains between the main entrance and the plain shop window.

Over the years, the building has had many varying occupants. For those who have worked downtown for years, the corner diner has taken many names. In the 1930s, it was Southern Brothers. In the 1940s, Wallace Brothers. For many years, it was A Family Affair and, more recently, it housed Della’s Diner.

The National Register listing also includes 148 West Short Street, a mid-19th century Greek Revival with gable roof and storefronts. Two story with 9 bays, a number of shops have called the building home for many, many years. The Dr. Walter Warfield Building has been and continues to be central to Lexington’s center of commerce.

An earlier version of this post was published in April 2012 when Della’s Diner occupied the spot. 

Historic Preservation, the University of Kentucky, and Legos

Funkhouser Building of the University of Kentucky in Lego.
Though not on the BGT’s Endangered List, many of the campus structures by its
architect (Ernst Johnson) are slated for, or at risk of, demolition. 

For Christmas, I received the Lego Architecture Studio. It is truly a Lego set for adults, especially those with an interest in architecture. And even though I have no training, I’m always up for a little fun. With a bourbon in hand, one of my first “projects” was to recreate, in Lego, some of the historic structures in Lexington. Of particular interest were those properties slated for inclusion on the Blue Grass Trust’s “Eleven in Their Eleventh Hour” list for 2014.

The BGT’s focus for 2014 was on historically significant structures located on the campus of the University of Kentucky. Many, though not all, of these buildings are modern in design (which is well suited for the Lego Architecture Studio, I might add) and the architectural beauty and significance of such mid-20th century structures have been discussed with much greater detail than prior properties listed on endangered lists. The release of the BGT’s 2014 list dovetailed with UK Trustee meetings on which the same very buildings’ fate would be determined. Within a short time, the wrecking ball will strike several of these unique structures.

The Kirwan-Blanding Complex was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone. UK has not
confirmed whether these 1967-era, 23-story towers and surrounds will survive. Of them and
their architectural style, Tom Eblen wrote that while “modernist buildings [are] not
for everyone … they’re worth saving anyway.” 

Once the fate of the buildings had been determined, the BGT reiterated a Plan B: “documenting [the buildings] thoroughly  … provid[ing] an opportunity for preservation and design students to become involved and educated [and to leave] behind an accurate and detailed record for future research.” UK’s own VisCenter and historic preservation programs could make great effort together to accomplish these aims.

Wenner-Gren Aeronautical Research Laboratory in Lego is slated for immediate demolition.
Built in 1940, the stories related to Wenner-Gren are numerous and its importance huge.
It was designed by architect Ernst Johnson, a noted Lexington architect. A chapter in the
book accompanying the Lego set discussed the concept of scale, something I practice with
my interpretation of the Wenner-Gren Laboratory.

Though my Lego interpretations are hardly accurate or detailed of the original structures, they show how these campus facilities can be a source for imagination and inspiration if given the opportunity. Though preservation of the structures is no longer an option, I do hope that each building can be fully documented.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was Delivered Seven Score and Ten Years Ago

Mural of Abraham Lincoln in downtown Lexington, Ky.

One hundred fifty years ago today, Kentucky native and sixteenth President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the national cemetery near the site of the battle which changed the course of the Civil War.

Last week, a mural in downtown Lexington was painted by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra. It is a spectacular, modern look at the well known form of the seated Lincoln just as he is immortalized at his Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The words of Lincoln, now 150 years a part of our nation’s history:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The Haunting of Transylvania – Happy Halloween!

A Haunted Old Morrison Hall at Transylvania University – Lexington, Ky.

On this All Hallows’ Eve (aka Halloween), I remind you of the former professor of Transylvania University who cast a spell upon the school and is buried in the crypt beneath Old Morrison. Of course with a name like Transylvania, the school embraces this autumnal holiday.

Check out these great photos of their decorations and pumpkin carvings that annually are placed on the steps of Old Morrison.

The story of Professor Constantine Rafinesque is after the jump.

Jack-O-Lantern’s on the steps of Old Morrison – Lexington, Ky.

Rafinesque Tomb at Transylvania University - Lexington, Ky.
The Tomb of Constantine Rafinesque – Lexington, Ky.

No, it is not Dracula. Although Bram Stoker may be impressed with the story of the man entombed under Transylvania University’s Old Morrison.

Born in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul, Turkey) in 1783, Constantine Rafinesque immigrated to the United States in 1802. Here, he met a number of young botanists and began to collect his specimens. In 1804, while travelling in the Virginia-Maryland area he met President Jefferson. It was suggested, but never realized, that Rafinesque should join Lewis and Clark on their famed expedition. Whether he was rejected or declined an offer, Rafinesque returned to Europe with his specimens and settled in Palermo, Sicily.

In 1815, he returned to the United States and continued to work diligently in the fields of biology and zoology. He came to the Athens of the West (Lexington) and its famed institution (Transylvania) as a professor of botany in 1819. Throughout his career, Rafinesque published the binomial names of over 6,700 species of flora and fauna, but he was never recognized during his life for his work. Perhaps it was because he was a little too eccentric for anyone’s taste.

On one occasion, Rafinesque stayed at the home of French-American ornithologist (bird guy) J. J. Audubon famed for his detailed color illustrations of birds in North America. In his room was Audubon’s prized violin and a live bat which Rafinesque did not recognize, so Raf swung and destroyed the violin in an attempt to seize the bat for his specimen collection. To thank him for destroying the violin, Audubon later gave his guest a beautiful color illustration of a gigantic fish which swims in the Ohio River. Rafinesque wrote and published a paper on this eight-foot-plus beast only to thereafter discover Aubudon’s joke. Needless to say, the two were not close.

As a professor, Rafinesque was more likely to skip class than were his pupils. He used the time to take nature walks. It is believed, but not confirmed, that Rafinesque also was quite friendly (perhaps a little too friendly) with the wife of college president Horace Holley. Further, Rafinesque (a Unitarian in faith) did not endear himself to the more conservative faiths and faithful of Kentucky.

So, whatever the reason in particular, Rafinesque was forced out of Transylvania in 1826. Upon his departure, however, he left a curse on both president Holley and Transylvania itself: “Damn thee and thy school as I place curses on you.” (or something to that effect).

As with curses, they always come true. The following year, Holley was himself forced out from the college whereupon he and his wife set out to teach in Louisiana. But he caught yellow fever and died. Transylvania’s main building (then within what is today Gratz Park) burned within two years of the curse. And Old Morrison itself suffered from extensive fire damage in 1969.

Rafinesque returned to Philadelphia after being relieved of his professorship and continued his work until his death from cancer in 1840. Without a church home, Rafinesque was buried in Ronaldson’s Cemetery at 9th and Bainbridge in Philadelphia. Ronaldson created his cemetery for travelers and others in Philadelphia who could not, without membership, be buried in a local church cemetery, but who would not be relegated to the public pauper’s field. Even so, up to six bodies would share the same space at Robertson’s and over time, the area became part of Philly’s slums (today it is quite regentrified).

But when Robertson’s Cemetery was to be destroyed in the 1920s, a group of Transylvanians came to recover the body of the old professor with the hope that the curse would end. And so his body was removed from its grave, brought to the campus of Transylvania University, and re-interred in a small crypt under the steps of Old Morrison.

At least, we think it was Rafinesque.