A GUIDE TO THE BLUEGRASS STATE - 1939
THE FIRST record of public amusement in Kentucky, was an ad-
L vertisement of May 31, 1797, in the Kentucky Gazette, a Lexington
paper. It announced that "a room for exhibition purposes" had
been erected adjoining Coleman's Tavern for "an exhibition of tumbling,
balancing on slack wire, slack rope walking and dancing. Admission
to pit, 2 shillings, to gallery, 2 shillings, 2 pence. Doors open at
sunset, performance beginning at dark."
Not until January 1, 1802, however, did theater items begin to appear
in the Gazette, nor was the location of the building, corner of
Spring and Vine Streets, given until June 25, 1811. The owner was
Luke Usher, who was probably the first theatrical manager in central
Kentucky; he also controlled houses at Frankfort and Louisville and
sent his actors from one town to the other, as business justified. Noble
Luke Usher, nephew of the theater owner and a Shakespearean actor
of some standing, joined the company in 1812 with his wife, Harriet
L'Estrange, an actress of unusual attainments and charm. Both were
from the south of Ireland and had been members of a theatrical company
which included the parents of Edgar Allan Poe. It may be that
Poe's story, "Fall of the House of Usher," was based on some tradition
of this family.
The theater of Kentucky was of little consequence until the coming
of the Drake family and their company. The story opens in Albany,
New York. In 1814 Noble Luke Usher arrived at the Albany Theater
to recruit actors for his houses in Kentucky, then regarded as "the
Far West." The adventure appealed to Samuel Drake, stage manager ;
he agreed to get a company together and start for Kentucky the following
spring. But the task was difficult, for experienced actors hesitated
to make the hazardous journey into "the unknown." However,
members of Drake's own family, all actors, and young N. M. Ludlow,
who had recently joined the company to play small parts, were eager
for the adventure.
The party including Samuel Drake; his sons, Samuel, Jr., Alexander,
and James; his daughters, Martha and Julia; and Frances Ann
Denny, N. M. Ludlow, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, and Joe Tracy, a man
of all work set out in wagons from Canandaigua, New York, late in
July 1815. They traveled across New York State, thence by boat to
Pittsburgh where they played for some time. In November they
started on their 400-mile journey in a flat-bottomed boat, known in
that day as an "ark" or a "Kentucky broadhorn." Floating down the
Ohio River to Limestone (Maysville), Kentucky, they made the remainder
of the trip in wagons to Frankfort. Here, in December 1815,
Kentucky's first real theatrical season opened with The Mountaineer
by Coleman, followed by a farce, The Poor Soldier. The season was
a good one and lasted until March. The players then proceeded by
private conveyance to Louisville, a distance of 50 miles, making the
trip in two days.
"On arriving in Louisville," wrote Samuel Drake, "we found the people
on the tiptoe of expectation, and anxious for the opening of the
season; but the theater was not in a position to be occupied; it was
dark, dingy and dirty. The scenery was badly painted, the auditorium
was done in the most dismal colors, and the house badly provided with
means for lighting. In about two weeks the theater had been turned
into passable condition for the opening, and we commenced our season
with Coleman's comedy, The Heir at Law, and the comic opera, Sprig
of Laurel. The performance went off with great applause, and the
people appeared delighted with the company. This season of ours in
Louisville, I understand, was the first that had been made by any theatrical
company. It lasted ten or eleven weeks and was undoubtedly
profitable to the management, for the house was well filled every
night. The season closed with benefits for the company, all of them
being well attended, and this in a town of less than 3,000 inhabitants.
But these people were gay, prosperous and fond of theatrical entertainment."
Drake's company met with similar success in Lexington, where they
opened with Speed the Plough. The old theater building, 80 feet long
by 30 feet wide, had a lower floor with pit and boxes in the London
style ; the seats, built up the side of Spring Street hill and rising gradually
from the stage, were covered with canvas and without backs. The
interior was plain, the scenery limited and badly painted, judged by
modern standards. The Kentucky Gazette in 1812 announced that
"hereafter the smoking of segars" in the theater would be prohibited;
but a coffee-room and bar "near the stage," offered consolation. The
most popular actors were those who could "hold their liquor like gentlemen."
John Palmer, in Travels in the United States in 1817, mentions attending
a performance at Limestone (Maysville), given by a company
of strolling players from England. The plays, Honeymoon and 'Tis All
a Farce, were presented in a frame building "appropriate for theatrical
purposes. . . . The scenery and performance were miserable," he reported,
"but the buffoonery of the farce and the orchestra of Negroes,
who performed two tunes with two fiddles and two triangles, kept the
audience in good humor; segar smoking during the performance was
practiced by most men."
Dr. H. McMurtrie, in his Sketches of Louisville, described the Louisville
theater of 1819 as aa handsome brick building of three stories."
Drake's playhouse, called the old City Theater, "was a very creditable
one and had some features not excelled by its successors," wrote
Colonel John T. Gray. "It had a row of private boxes occupying the
whole front of what is now the dress circle, as in the French Opera
House in New Orleans. They were closed in the rear, having doors for
entrances, and open at the front. The second tier was open and corresponded
to the latter day dress circle, while the third was low priced
as now. The pit was not the choice place, as now, but was occupied
by men, veteran theater-goers and critics. The theater was lighted
with a grand chandelier swung from the dome, and with side lights, all
of sperm candles, and there was never a dripping one."
Samuel Drake successfully managed theaters in Kentucky until 1830.
(He then purchased a farm in Oldham County, where he died October
16, 1854, at the age of eighty-six.) His company remained together
until about 1835 after which some returned East, while others joined
N. M. Ludlow, author of Dramatic Life as I Found It, and head of a
company which held a prominent place in the theatrical world of the
Midwest until the 1850's. Ludlow's "Kentucky Comedians" played
in Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort, Harrodsburg, Danville, Cincinnati
and adjoining towns. They also ventured as far afield as Nashville,
Natchez, St. Louis, Mobile and New Orleans.
The customary program of this period consisted of a three- to fiveact
drama, followed by a two-act farce or comedy; sometimes comic
dialogue or musical solos were added for good measure. Most in demand, judging by advertising and requests for return performances,
were: The Soldier's Daughter, The Rivals, The Wheel of Fortune,
Animal Magnetism, or the Doctor Outwitted, Matrimony, or the
Happy Imprisonment, Love a la Mode, or Humors of the Turf, and
Raising the Wind, or How to Live Cheap. Romantic dramas such as
Blue Beard, or Female Curiosity, Abeallino, or the Venetian Outlaw,
Rudolph, or Robbers of Calabria, were enthusiastically received time
and again. The tragedies most frequently advertised were The Revenge,
The Roman Father, Barbarossa, or Tyrant of Algiers, and
Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Richard III.
Sol Smith, author of Theatrical Management in the South and West,
and member of a traveling company which played in the villages
throughout central Kentucky as early as 1829, calls attention to
Drake's singular propensity for adding second titles to plays. "To the
Honeymoon he would add, or The Painter and His Three Daughters.
He always announced the Hunter of the Alps with this addition: Or
The Runaway Horse that Flung its Rider in the Forest of Savoy."
Benefits for the actors were given at the end of the season to provide
funds for idle months ahead. On these nights, friends bought
large blocks of tickets, and added to the success of the performance
by applause. On February 6, 1850, Julia Dean, best remembered as
Lucretia Borgia, took a benefit at the old City Theater in The Wrecker's
Daughter, and Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady. The crowd
was tremendous; many were turned away and the occasion made theatrical
history, setting a mark often referred to later. The Daily
Journal went into raptures. "She is not a mere machine," said the
critic, "moving first one arm and then another, uttering mechanical
things, but a creature of fiery genius and passion, pouring forth her
emotions from the depths of an unburdened heart." When Mrs. Kent
took her benefit on April 11 of the same year in Katherine and Petruchio,
an arrangement of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, bouquets
and baskets of flowers were thrown at her feet, with money
hidden among the flowers.
The City Theater was destroyed by fire in May 1843, and Louisville
remained without a theater until February 9, 1846, when the new
Louisville Theater, built on the old site, opened. Douglas Jerrold's
Time Works Wonders was presented, with Julia Dean, granddaughter
of old Samuel Drake, playing Florentine; The Widow's Victim and
The Stagestruck Chambermaid were played as after pieces. Until it
was abandoned in 1873 the Louisville Theater housed the favorite actors and actresses of their day. Junius Brutus Booth appeared there
in December 1848 in a number of his characterizations, his Richard III
being spoken of as "full of genius, truth and nature." The great
Macready played a week's engagement in April 1848 and was said to
have drawn the largest audience ever seen in the theater. The 1860
season closed with Charlotte Cushman's performance in The Stranger.
Laura Keene, the resourceful actress-manager, played here with her
company for three weeks in 1863, presenting -such plays as She Stoops
to Conquer, School for Scandal, and Our American Cousin, in which
the elder Sothern later rose to glory. James E. Murdock, James K.
Hackett, John McCulloch, Mr. and Mrs. James Wallack, Frank Mayo,
and Clara Morris appeared year after year. In 1872, when the prestige
of the old house was already waning, Cooper and Pyne, Harrison,
and the New Orleans English Opera Company presented a series of
operas, and Strakoscn's company with Christina Nilsson filled a short
The Louisville Theater was abandoned in 1873 when Barney Macauley,
who had come to Louisville from Memphis, Tennessee, about
the time of the War between the States, offered his first play in the
new $200,000 theater which bore his name. An old "dodger" described
the building as "constructed and finished in the highest style
of modern art ... and one of the most substantial and elegant theaters
in the world." The opening performance on October 13, 1873,
given before a fashionable crowd in the high hats and pompadours of
the period, was the play Extremes, with Marie Bates starred as Lady
Cosby. This marked the beginning of a series of notable productions
that won for Macauley a national reputation.
Colonel John T. Macauley succeeded his brother Barney as manager
in 1879 and retained the management until his death in 1916. Here
on the night of November 27, 1875, Mary Anderson, Louisville's best
beloved actress, made her first appearance as Juliet. Sarah Bernhardt
came to Macauley's in 1880 during her first American tour. It was at
Macauley's on December 7, 1883, that Helena Modjeska, talented Polish
actress, appeared in Ibsen's A Doll's House, the first presentation
of Ibsen in America. Given under the title of Thora, the name of the
heroine, now known as Nora, the Ibsen ending was replaced by a
"happy" one. The Courier-Journal critic reported a brilliant audience.
The production, he observed, "was a novelty, curiosity to see Modjeska
in a new role as well as admiration for the great actress" brought it
together. He thought the tragic ending more consistent and predicted
the play, which "lived through Modjeska," would never "be very
popular." Joseph Jefferson, Edwin Booth, Lawrence Barrett, Fanny
Davenport, Mrs. Fiske, Maggie Mitchell, Lotta, Ada Rehan, and such
foreign celebrities as Bernhardt, Salvini and Langtry, appeared time
after time at Macauley's until Louisville audiences knew them well
and loved them all. The final chapter was written at the closing performance
of the Malcolm Fassett stock season on August 25, 1925.
Macauley's was then torn down to make way for the Starks office building;
with its passing, Louisville lost one of its most colorful and
glamorous historical landmarks.
Other theaters in Louisville came and went, but none ever attained
the prestige of Macauley's. In the nineties Colonel Norton built a
huge, sprawling auditorium on Fifth Street, where prize fights and
Italian opera were housed indiscriminately. Mozart Hall, on Fourth
Street near Liberty, renamed Woods in 1863, was an early amateur
enterprise, one of the first theaters to inaugurate matinees. Later this
theater became the Academy of Music, flourished briefly as the Theatre
Comique, and then passed out of existence. Among the other houses
were the Hopkins, the Masonic Temple, the Buckingham (now the
Savoy) and the Gayety a vaudeville house. The Brown Theater on
Broadway took the place of Macauley's for a brief while.
The glamorous days of stock companies and road shows are over,
and today Louisville has no legitimate theater. The few noted actors
who still tour the country such as Katharine Cornell, Helen Hayes
and Walter Huston play at the Memorial Auditorium.
The little theater movement, however, has had a phenomenal growth
in Kentucky, dating from a performance by the University of Louisville
Players in 1911. The initial production of this group was given
in the old clinic of the medical school, with a stage measuring eight by
twelve feet. The first regular season began in 1913. At the present
time practically all the State colleges, the larger high schools, churches,
and many independent organizations have active groups producing
plays regularly. The Little Theater, of Louisville, the Guignol Theater
Company, of Lexington, which owes much of its success to Carol
Sax, and a club at Bowling Green, all give productions of real merit.
The yearly productions at the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes
encourage dramatic activity in Kentucky's Negro schools.
Boyd Martin, dramatic director of the University of Louisville for
the last 25 years and dramatic critic of the Courier-Journal, is in
great measure responsible for the activity of three groups of players in
Louisville: the University of Louisville Players, The Players Club, and
the Alumni Players. These clubs have been recently combined as the
Little Theater Company of Louisville. Five playscents are presented each
season at the Playhouse on Belknap Campus, University of Louisville.
Dedicatory services for the Playhouse, a small Tudor Gothic building
recently remodeled, were held November 12, 1925, the same year in
which Macauley's Theater was razed. Here is housed the gallery of
theatrical pictures formerly a feature of Macauley's lobby, a gift to the
University from Macauley's heirs. The collection, begun when the old
theater opened its doors, contains 3,000 pictures of famous actors and
actresses, many of them autographed. The Guignol Theater in Lexington,
under the direction of Frank Fowler, is sponsored by the University
of Kentucky and offers five or six plays during the school term
and usually one during the summer.
The newest and one of the most ambitious adventures in theatrical
entertainment in the State is the open air theater in Iroquois Park,
Louisville, built with the aid of the Works Progress Administration.
Ground was broken on April 18, 1938, and the theater opened with a
performance of Naughty Marietta. The seats are in the open and are
placed on natural terraces with a garden wall across the back. The
permanent structure consists of stage, dressing rooms, and offices. The
Park Theatrical Association, a non-profit organization, accepts from the
Park Board responsibility for providing attractions, underwriting the
project against loss, and at the end of each season, turns over profits,
if any, to the city for further improvement of the property. It is noteworthy
that the initial season (1938) showed a profit of $900. The
operas presented were: Naughty Marietta, Rose Marie, The Mikado,
and Rio Rita.
Painting and Sculpture
The pioneers who penetrated the Appalachians could carry but
little equipment; and when they settled on the land they were compelled
to rely upon their manual skill for a home and its furnishings.
During the early days handicrafts supplied almost all necessary
articles. Furniture, utensils, brooms, rugs, quilts, coverings, cloth,
THE ARTS 117
baskets, were woven, spun or tooled by hand. The pioneer women
picked, washed, carded, and spun wool and cotton, and colored them
with dyes made from clays, roots, and bark.
Although utility is the primary aim of the crafts, they stimulate by
their very nature the development of the arts of decoration. The
homespun fabrics were woven according to both new and traditional
designs. The carving of chairs, stools, tables, benches, and bedsteads
produced in time an indigenous style. Coverlets and quilts, objects of
special regard among pioneer women, were ornamented with colored
flowers and stitching which often reached a high level of creative
The pioneer crafts declined with the advance of roads and machinemade
goods, and by the end of the nineteenth century they had all
but disappeared. A few "pockets" in the mountains and valleys of
eastern Kentucky continued, however, to preserve the remnants of the
old skills. Recently a broad movement, in which Berea College took
the lead in 1893, has developed to revive and stimulate the local
crafts. Schools and centers have been set up in many parts of the
State to encourage their practice and to carry them forward in new
directions. Besides furniture and textiles, ironwork, poppets (mountain
dolls), dulcimers, toys, and whittled animals and figures are among the
products of the "contemporary ancestors."
The early history of the State was not, however, solely one of frontier
hazards. Some of the pioneers who settled in the soft lands of
central Kentucky soon built fine homes, lived in comfort, and even
with a degree of luxury, entertained visitors from the East, and fostered
whatever fine arts were accessible. Here the collection of silverware
was popular, and knives, spoons, forks, pitchers, ladles, and
mint julep cups were fashioned from coin metal. Asa Blanchard
and Samuel Ayres are among the silversmiths whose names have survived.
A good deal of this early work is still to be found in Kentucky,
including a teapot and pitcher made for Isaac Shelby, first Governor,
and a service (dated 1819) for General Green Clay.
By 1825 Lexington, then the cultural center of the State and proud
to be known as the "Athens of the West," ranked with New Orleans
as a center for portrait painters. John Neagle, who came from Philadelphia
in 1818, found himself in competition with a native Kentuckian
already firmly established as one of the leading portrait painters of his
day. This was Matthew H. Jouett (1787-1827), called "the best
painter west of the Appalachians."
Jouett had been a student of Gilbert Stuart for several months, but
was largely self-taught. Showing a keen sense .of character, firm drawing
and brush work, and a feeling for strong composition, his work set
a standard for the Kentucky portraitists who followed. Though but
fifteen years of his brief life were devoted to painting, he left hundreds
of portraits, which today constitute a roll call of the notable figures of
early-Republican Kentucky. The J. B. Speed Memorial Museum in
Louisville includes in its collection ten Kentucky portraits by Jouett;
Transylvania College in Lexington has his painting of Henry Clay; and
the Kentucky State Historical Society has a number of his canvases,
including a full-length portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette, painted
as a memento of his visit to Kentucky in the spring of 1825.
A contemporary of Jouett, William Edward West (1788-1857), son
of a Lexington inventor and silversmith, studied under Sully in Philadelphia,
and later continued his education abroad, where he received
attention for his portrait of Byron. West also made a sketch of Shelley,
and was commissioned for portraits by many well-known figures of his
day. In Paris he formed the acquaintance of Washington Irving and
became his close friend, illustrating his The Pride of the Village and
Annette Delabre. The career of West is a Kentucky example of the
early tendency among American artists to seek education and a congenial
life in the cities of Europe.
In sculpture Italy was the chief influence in the first half of the nineteenth
century. Joel T. Hart (1810-1877), who was born in Winchester,
spent many years in Florence. His Triumph of Chastity is
typical in style and theme of the sculpture of the period. He is perhaps
most popularly known for his statue of Henry Clay at Richmond,
Virginia, a copy of which stands in the rotunda of the Jefferson County
Courthouse in Louisville, Kentucky. Hart was associated with Gideon
Shryock (1802-1880) in the building of the Old Capitol at Frankfort.
In contrast with these expatriate artists, John James Audubon (1779-
1851) and Chester Harding (1792-1866) established wide reputations
through their paintings of local subjects. Audubon lived at Henderson
and at Louisville for several years, and gathered material on the Ohio
River for his monumental Birds of America. The J. B. Speed Museum
has five portraits by him, and there are numerous collections of Audubon's
prints in Kentucky, the largest of which is housed in the Museum
in Audubon Memorial Park at Henderson.
Chester Harding, who achieved a tremendous reputation during his
lifetime, was born in Massachusetts, but spent much of his early life
wandering in the newly settled territories. He arrived in Paris, Kentucky,
about 1818 when portraits were much in demand. Later he
went to Missouri and painted the picture of Daniel Boone, which hangs
in the Filson Club in Louisville.
Other Kentucky painters of this epoch were Joseph H. Bush (1794-
1865); John Grimes (1799-1837), a pupil of Jouett; Oliver Frazer
(1808-1864); and E. F. Goddard, who settled in Georgetown about
1840. Edward Troye (1804-1874), a Swiss who arrived in America in
1828, achieved much renown as a painter of horses. James Reid
Lambdin (1807-1889), famous for his portraits of American Presidents,
moved to Louisville in 1832.
Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), outstanding American painter, sculptor,
etcher, and teacher, was born in Covington. During a prolonged
period of study at Munich, he absorbed the new brushwork technique
of that school, and on his return to America became a leading influence
of the latter half of the nineteenth century. In his later years he
served as Dean of the Cincinnati Art School and made his home permanently
in Covington. In St. Mary's Cathedral in Covington are
some large murals by Duveneck, Crucifixion, Christ at Emmaus, and
others painted about 1910.
Alfred L. Brennan (1853-1921), born in Louisville, was known for
his illustrations. Charles Courtney Curran, winner of many prizes and
medals both in America and abroad, was born in Hartford, Kentucky,
in 1861. Charles Sneed Williams (b. 1882) is represented at the State
Capitol, the Kentucky State Historical Society, and the Speed Memorial
Museum. Enid Yandell (1870-1934), whose work in sculpture is
well known, was a native of Louisville. Her Daniel Boone, a character
study, first exhibited at the Chicago Fair in 1893, stands in Cherokee
Park in Louisville. Near by is Hogan Fountain also designed and
executed by her.
Paul Sawyier (d. 1917) painted views along the Kentucky and Dix
Rivers above Frankfort. His water colors and oils are subjective interpretations,
rich in atmosphere and feeling. Dean Cornwell, who has
achieved a reputation as an illustrator and mural painter, was born in
Louisville in 1892 and received his first instruction in art there; his
work has been exhibited at the Speed Museum. Charles Warner Williams,
an example of whose work is to be seen at Berea College, was
born in Henderson in 1903.
In recent years a number of public monuments have been dedicated
in the State. A. A. Weinman's (b. 1870) seated Lincoln is in the
public square at Hodgenville, and another Lincoln, in a standing posture,
by the same artist, is in the rotunda of the State Capitol at Frankfort.
A replica of George Gray Barnard's colossal Lincoln at Cincinnati,
Ohio, stands in the grounds of Louisville's Public Library. The
statue of William Goebel in front of the Capitol grounds in Frankfort
is by Charles N. Niehaus (1855-1935), and one of James Kennedy
Patterson on the campus of the University of Kentucky is the work of
Augustus Lukeman (1871-1935). A bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson,
a work of much imagination by Moses Jacob Ezekiel (1844-1917),
stands in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Louisville.
George Rogers Clark's departure from Fort Harrod on the expedition
that was to win the Northwest Territory is commemorated at Harrodsburg,
the site of Fort Harrod, by a high-relief done in granite by Ulric
Ellerhusen (b. 1879). Other Kentucky monuments are the statue of
John B. Castleman by Roland Huston Perry, a memorial to Governor
H. Clay Egbert by John Carlisle Meyenberg, and the Charles J.
Duncan Memorial by George Julian Zolnay all in Louisville.
Of major interest is the current revival of mural painting. The
Marine Hospital in Louisville has a series of panels by Henrick M.
Mayer, executed under the section of painting and sculpture of the
Federal Treasury Department, dramatizing the Ohio River steamboat
trade of half a century ago. In the lobby of the Seelbach Hotel,
Louisville, is a series of murals by Arthur Thomas, depicting the pioneer
life and history of Kentucky and Northwest Territories. In the
Federal Building at Louisville, the postal service and Kentucky industries
are shown in a group of decorations by Frank Long, whose two
murals at the University of Kentucky Library are a vigorous interpretation
of rural and mountain life. In the foyer of the University's
Memorial Hall is a fresco by Ann Rice, the only example of this medium
in the State. In Louisville two murals by Ferdinand G. Walker
are in St. Peter's Church, and the State Capitol at Frankfort has
murals by Gilbert White.
Several nationally known cartoonists and caricaturists including
Fontaine Fox, Wyncie King, and Paul Plaschke are from Kentucky.
In the field of "popular" art, paintings, prints, tombstones, and monuments
of horses are among Kentucky's interesting contributions. A
life-size bronze stands over the grave of Fair Play, great sire of the
Elmendorf Farm, the central Kentucky estate of Joseph Widener. At
Hamburg Place, the property of Ed Madden, is a graveyard enclosed
by a gray stone fence, horseshoe-shaped; here are buried many famous
Madden runners, including Nancy Hanks, champion trotting mare. At
Colonel E. R. Bradley's place, near Lexington, a small bronze statue
has been erected over the grave of North Star III.
The Federal Art Project, started in February 1936, has worked to
promote the development of native talent. Besides its other activities,
the project has made valuable reproductions of old furniture and designs
with the aim of perpetuating the tradition and accomplishments
of early Kentucky craftsmen.
Since Kentucky was admitted to the Union as early as 1792 it
might be assumed that its literary development would, in a general
way, parallel that of the new Nation, moving through a protean
romanticism to an equally protean realism. And that, up to a certain
point, and with modifications imposed by its sectional character, is precisely
what Kentucky literature has done.
To a population whose booklovers had been reared pretty largely in
the traditions of Walter Scott and Lord Byron, a love for historical fiction,
for florid oratory, for the passionate expression of emotion, came
without much effort. Its liking for the Gothic elements of narrative
has not yet been wholly satisfied, and from Catharine A. Warfield's
The Romance of Beauseincourt (1867) through Robert Burns Wilson's
Until the Day Break (1900), down to the detective novels of the late
Foxhall Daingerfield, Kentuckians have enjoyed the stock materials
which arouse horror and mystery. This sensationalism, growing out
of an essentially aristocratic attitude, is a minor trait of Kentucky literature,
to be sure. The spread of democratic feeling in a State which
was, despite any pretensions to the contrary, founded upon a midwestern
democracy, was inevitable ; by the middle of the nineteenth century,
books which had the best chance to succeed in Kentucky were those
which had not a little relation to actualities books which preserved
the homely manners, the homely humor, and the homely dialect of its
people. Out of this regionalism qualified, it is important to note, by
a gentility which survived from the height of the romantic movement
came the impetus for the most noted of Kentucky's novelists.
The first of these, and the one that should be read first by the visitor
to Kentucky, is James Lane Allen. Born near Lexington in 1849, he
located the scenes for fifteen of his nineteen books in the Bluegrass of
his native State. His second volume, The Blue-grass Region of Kentucky
(1892), was an account of Kentucky landscapes, houses, people,
and manners, with a nostalgic longing for a culture which had died
during the War between the States. In his fiction Allen made the central
plateau of Kentucky as familiar to the national public as any other
section popularized by any author. If the name of Kentucky is today
an alluring one, it is chiefly because of the legends and facts that
cluster about the figure of Daniel Boone, because of the fading convention
of resounding public speech, because of the genuine balladry
of the mountains and the simulated balladry of Stephen Collins Foster,
and because James Lane Allen wrote such novels as A Kentucky Cardinal
(1895), The Choir Invisible (1897), and The Reign of Law
Allen began by following in the steps of the local colorists. Before
the opening of the twentieth century he passed on into a realism inspired
by his reading and by a maturing philosophy, a realism which
eventually shocked and alienated his readers, especially his Kentucky
readers. Disturbed by the antagonism and condemnation he had inspired,
Allen turned back briefly to romance, then experimented with
a realism deeply colored by symbolism, and ended with narratives
which he intended to transcend all schools. Much of what he wrote
is now forgotten; much will never have value save for the student and
historian. But Allen did preserve, in a style which became progressively
imposing and artificial, many scenes and people, and customs
which anyone who wishes to know the Bluegrass must read. Note, for
example, what tinges of romance his early "The White Cowl" and
"Sister Dolorosa" add to the Trappist monastery of Gethsemane and
the convent at Loretto. One should read The Choir Invisible for an unmatched
re-creation of the idealism of the best Bluegrass blood of a
former age. A reading of "King Solomon of Kentucky" and "Two
Gentlemen of Kentucky" will add sentimental interest to any stay at
Lexington. Allen's writing after 1910 failed to win critical or popular
approval; today it is little known and probably on the way to oblivion.
This decline was owing, as intimated, to the fact that he became the
victim of his precious style, and to the additional fact that he was unwilling
to throw off his mantle of gentility. Before he died in 1925 he
had outlived both his fame and his once sizeable earnings.
Influenced at the outset by James Lane Allen, John Fox, Jr., managed
to combine romance and realism more shrewdly, more palatably.
Born near Paris in 1863, Fox later made his home in the highlands
which meet on the borders of Virginia and Kentucky at Big Stone Gap.
Here he found the material which put two of his novels among the
best-selling American books of all time: The Little Shepherd of Kingdom
Come (1903) and The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1908). The
material, of course, was the mountaineer and his manners. In narrative
these novels, perhaps, surpass anything Allen wrote; indeed, The
Trail builds a climax which most novelists would be glad to equal. A
pupil of the regional writers, Fox met the demands of his generation
by idealizations of character which now provoke skepticism. Commentators
are likely to complain of the romanticism which made the primitive
mountaineer a nobler individual than the inheritor of Bluegrass
civilization. On the other hand, the mountain people protest that his
representations of them are unfair and untrue, particularly as he emphasizes
feuds, lawlessness, and moonshining. Like Allen, Fox found
his literary reputation waning before he died in 1919. Authors who
put their trust in regionalism are likely to find their material limited,
their themes repetitious.
This is the peril confronting Elizabeth Madox Roberts, born near
Perryville in 1885, who writes not of the mountaineers, as most eastern
reviewers take for granted, but of the farmers southward from Louisville.
Miss Roberts is at her best when most subjective; perhaps no
living American writer has more truthfully explored the consciousness
of the adolescent girl, of the lonely and poetic woman. Her first
volume was verse, Under the Tree (1922), now very rare. She has also
attempted the historical novel in The Great Meadow (1930), which introduces
Boone and what is now Harrodsburg, and satire upon the
contemporary scene in the obscure but not doctrinnaire Jingling in the
Wind (1928) and He Sent Forth a Raven (1935). Her latest story,
Black is My Truelove's Hair (1938), is a tragi-comedy of the Kentucky
countryside. No well-read person will be unacquainted with her
first novel, The Time of Man (1926), which in its universality has the
earmark of a classic.
Irvin S. Cobb, also an offspring of the regionalists, will escape their
fate by virtue of his humor and because he has created one of the most
lovable heroes, the canny, benevolent Judge Priest. Cobb describes a
still different section of Kentucky the Purchase, whose capital is
Paducah, where he was born in 1876. He captures and reveals with
sometimes irrelevant details the era of steamboat traffic on the Ohio,
of leisurely and kindly living in southern provinces. One of the bestpaid
of present-day story writers, he is usually represented in anthologies
by "The Belled Buzzard" and "Words and Music," the latter perhaps
his finest narrative so far.
Another Kentuckian to produce a book ranking among the best
sellers of all time is Alice Hegan Rice, of Louisville, whose Mrs.
Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1901) taught the favorite American
gospel that poverty can be supported with courage and honor. The
scene is laid in Louisville. Widely read, too, have been the "Emmy
Lou" stories of Mrs. George Madden Martin and the "Little Colonel"
series of Annie Fellows Johnston, both of Pewee Valley.
Kentucky regionalism found a virile, lyrical voice in 1935 when Jesse
Stuart (1906 ) surprised the literary world with his Man with a
Bull-Tongue Plow, a prodigal book of more than 700 sonnets about
"birds, cornfields, trees, wildflowers, log shacks, my own people, valleys
and rivers and mists in the valleys." Often crude in form and
mediocre in content, these musical sonnets have a refreshing spontaneity
and a ringing sincerity. Stuart resorts to poetry to celebrate
the beauties of nature and an ancestral way of life that he finds good,
but uses prose to tell about the people of the foothills of eastern Kentucky.
Something of their angularity is portrayed in some of the
casually grim or profanely humorous stories in Head o' W-Hollow
(1936). In these stories, with their odd characters and episodes of
frustration and tragedy, Stuart achieves a form of implicit criticism not
often found in his poetry. His autobiography, Beyond Dark Hills
(1938), first written while he was attending college, is an understanding
account of the more representative folk of his region the hill
farmers who have wrestled with a tough, stingy soil for generations, and
faced sickness, hardship, isolation and death with equanimity.
It is difficult to account for the absence of first-rate poets among a
people fundamentally romantic. The explanation probably lies in the
lack of critical guidance, in a hampering conservatism, and in the lack
of local encouragement. Madison Cawein, for example, blinded by the
magic of Keats and Spenser, could do no better with Kentucky than
populate the woods near Louisville with fays, elves, pixies, oreads, and
the like; in this process he was too prolific, too oblivious to things
human. Sometimes called the greatest nature poet of his day, he died
disappointed, convinced that his world of dreams had been shattered
by pressing poverty and illness. A less melodious poet is Cale Young
Rice, of Louisville, who carries on the classical tradition of English
verse and resents recent experiments in versification. It must be said
of Kentucky poets, as of the prose writers, that they have failed, either
through lack of vision or of courage, to give the State the epical treatment
in literature which it deserves.
Kentucky, like most of our western States, passed through a pioneering
period the period of the "clearing" in the timber, the stockade
fort, and the Wilderness Road. Forests had to be cleared;
land had to be broken; a new domain had to be brought under the
hand of the plowman. The story of those early parties, of their settlements
here, of grim days of privation and Indian peril, are eloquently
recorded in the architecture of the old stockade forts like Fort Harrod,
so admirably reconstructed at Harrodsburg.
As soon as the country had been made safe for settlement, Kentucky's
virgin acres had to be made to produce, and produce abundantly,
before anything like a real competence could be won from the
soil. But the sturdy pioneers did conquer the soil and did establish
in the wilderness the foundations of a commonwealth as early as the
last quarter of the eighteenth century.
With the establishment of an agricultural economy there came a
second architectural expression the log cabin. These staunch and
rugged four-square old houses, with rough-hewn walls and dirt floors,
are emblematic of the type of life which was lived in them, and symbolic
of the men and women who inhabited them. Good examples of
the house of this period are the Marriage Place of Tom Lincoln and
Nancy Hanks in Pioneer Park at Harrodsburg, and the old Creel
Cabin (see Tour 6) on the Lincoln birthplace farm near Hodgenville.
Beginning with stockade forts and log cabins, architectural expression
in Kentucky passed through successive phases, eventually culminating
in the great porticoed brick mansions which lend so much charm
to the countryside.
Thus Kentucky architecture parallels the course of architecture upon
the Atlantic seaboard with this difference; a style or a fashion well
known in the maritime States will often not make its appearance in
Kentucky for from 10 to 30 years later. Once acclimated, however,
such vogues are as likely to persist here as in other areas. It is, therefore,
not feasible to set down the chronology for seaboard architecture
and expect it completely to apply to the course of the art in Kentucky.
Chronologically it must be pointed out that the term "Colonial," so
far as Kentucky architecture is concerned, can have no historic connotation
and is employed only to refer to that variety of architecture
which arose upon the Atlantic seaboard during the Colonial period and
belatedly reached Kentucky. Because of this fact one should be careful
in the use of the word. The term is generally very loosely applied
to Kentucky architecture, being used to designate not only the true
Colonial but also the porticoed house of the Greek Revival, so common
in the State. "Liberty Hall" in Frankfort, "Federal Hill" (see Tour
15) near Bardstown, and the Benjamin Gratz House in Lexington are
perfect examples of the Georgian phase of Kentucky Colonial and
should not be confused with such Greek Revival examples as the Orlando
Brown House in Frankfort, Beaumont Inn (Daughters' College)
in Harrodsburg, or old Centre College at Danville, Morrison College
of Transylvania, and the Old Statehouse at Frankfort.
After the advent of railways and the accompanying facility in the
exchange of ideas and materials, the development of architecture in
Kentucky, particularly in the towns and cities, more nearly paralleled
that of the eastern part of the United States. This was especially true
after the reconstruction period that followed the Civil War.
The first phase (the log cabin) of early Kentucky architecture dates
from 1767 to 1786. Although Gabriel Arthur, of Virginia, appears to
have traversed territory now within Kentucky as early as 1674, nothing
that can even remotely be termed architecture was erected in the State
for nearly a century. What purports to be the ruined chimney of the
"first house in Kentucky," built by Dr. Thomas Walker (see Tour 4A)
about 1750, is today preserved at the Walker State Park near Barbourville.
The exact form of this house is not known, but a log cabin in
the accepted style of the day has been erected to give the visitor some
notion of Kentucky's "first home." At the time that Kentucky was
being settled the log cabin built of horizontal logs had long since become
the recognized type for the pioneer woodsman. These houses
could be built of the timber taken from the lands which the settlers
cleared for cultivation and were, when well "chinked" with mud or
plaster, warm in winter and cool in summer. The simpler cabins
usually consisted of one room, sometimes of two. Often two portions
of a house were separated by an open passageway or "dogtrot" porch,
as it was sometimes locally called. This passageway often served as a
washroom, where extra wood for the kitchen fire and a bench with
water pail and wash basin were kept.
Such cabins were usually constructed of round logs flattened upon
two sides in order to make a better joint. These were halved into
each other at the corners, the ends left to project about a foot. If a
foundation was used, it was of stone and the massive fireplace was of
the same material. Above the throat of the fireplace the chimney was
constructed of "stocks" or logs carefully chinked, at first with clay but
later with mortar. In time the "stock" chimneys, always in danger of
burning, were replaced with stone. The roofs were at first covered
with "shucks," later with bark "shingles," and finally with hand-split
"shakes" held in place by long poles secured at the ends. Often the
floors were of dirt, but these were in time replaced with "puncheons"
or split logs, usually very uneven and sometimes full of splinters. Before
glass was available windows were protected by skins or heavy shutters.
Upon occasion oiled paper was used in lieu of glass, this being
protected by wooden slats. Kentucky has a wealth of examples coming
down from pioneer days, the old Creel cabin on the Lincoln Birthplace
farm being a good example of the more elaborate type. Old Fort
Harrod at Harrodsburg, reconstructed in 1926, forms an easily accessible
exhibit of the pioneer stage of Kentucky architecture.
Succeeding the earliest cabins just described there appeared a more
refined variety of log house. This was constructed of beautifully hewn
squared logs carefully jointed and calked. Stone foundations and stone
or brick chimneys were usual, and in general plan such houses resembled
the more adequate types left behind by the settlers who came from
the Atlantic seaboard. Many comfortable and respectable looking
Kentucky houses of this type of construction are still standing, an
excellent example being the Wilmore Garrett place not far from Lexington.
It is a well proportioned two-story house of Georgian Colonial
lines, resembling in general character the architecture of Tuckahoe in
Virginia. The stairway ascends from a central hallway, the more important
rooms flanking the entry. This house, like many another, was
covered with clapboards and, with the addition of a classic portico,
attained a real gentility. At the rear of this house a fine stone wing,
the next step in the utilization of materials, is to be seen.
Stone, where it was readily available, early became a favorite material. As a matter of fact, stone as an architectural material really
came into prominence before the cabin type went out of use. There
are still extant many smaller stone houses, now long used for Negroes
or servants, that were the habitations of the original landowners.
More genteel and commendable examples of stone construction, however,
are the fine old structures at Shakertown (see Tour 15), the rear
wing of the Garrett house above mentioned, and the old DuPuy farmhouse
below Versailles in Woodford County; This latter house is of
two stories with a central hall, a quaint front porch, and simple but
dignified mantels. Built of cream-gray Kentucky "marble" with white
wood trim and green shutters, this staunch old house has real distinction.
Georgian and Federal architecture in Kentucky prevailed from 1786
to 1825. In a sense the advent of brick as a structural material may
be said to signalize the arrival of Georgian forms in Kentucky. The
William Whitley House (see Tour 3) in Lincoln County, built in 1786,
was one of the earliest of the Georgian types, and the "first brick
house" in the State. In mass this structure is not unlike the simpler
two-story houses of old Virginia and, as in these, the brick work is in
Flemish bond with dark headers. It was followed by a brilliant company
of noble houses, the general arrangement of which, following the
models of Virginia, provided a broad central hall with a stairway up to
a landing from which it returned to the second floor. Ceilings were
high and windows double-hung with 12- or 16-paned sashes.
Often Palladian windows, an invention of the Italian Renaissance
introduced through England to America, were used either over the principal
portal, as at "Liberty Hall" in Frankfort, or for the regular opening,
as at the old Muldrow farm (see Tour 14) near Milner, and at the
Eliza Cleveland house in Versailles. Each important room had a beautiful
mantel, while an arch, spanning the central hall and supported
upon delicately fluted columns, often divided the hall into "front" and
Perhaps no single example of Georgian architecture in Kentucky is
better known than "Federal Hill" (see Tour 15) near Bardstown.
Built in 1795 by John Rowan, this sedate but graceful home was
constructed of native brick with stone foundations, the brick laid in
Flemish bond but without the dark headers. The main house, consisting
of two stories and a low attic, would present the typical
Georgian plan were it not for the fact that what would ordinarily be
a rear room, on the west side of the hall, is here replaced by a service
court which intervenes between the dining room and the one-story
detached kitchen wing. The house is nobly proportioned, both inside
and out. The windows are of the generous 12-paned variety, while
long side windows, fitted with double-hung six-paned sashes, flank
the simple, classically enframed portal.
A broad central hall, spanned by a beautiful arch carried upon delicately
fluted colonnettes, leads through the house. At the right, beyond
the archway, the stairway ascends to a landing above the rear
door, from which it returns on the left of the hall to the second floor.
At the right as one enters is the dining room; at the left the parlor,
behind which is a lower bedroom. Above, a similar arrangement provides
three bedrooms with a library over the front hall. The parlor,
dining room and bed chambers are provided with mantels, which connect
with chimneys that go up through inside walls. Each of these
mantels is a splendid example of the carver's art.
A Georgian house quite similar in plan to "Federal Hill" is "Liberty
Hall" in Frankfort. In this notable house, built by the Honorable
John Brown in 1796, the plan suggested in the remarks about "Federal
Hill" is realized; that is, the central hall with spanning arch and stairway
is flanked by two rooms on either side. Moreover, the kitchen
wing, which at "Federal Hill" is upon a lower level, is here upon the
same level and is better related to the house proper. "Liberty Hall"
therefore represents the full-blown Georgian plan.
Here also the general mass of the house has received greater thought
and presents, in its pediment-crowned frontal bay, a motif quite usual
in the Pennsylvania and Virginia houses of its day. The portal is of
noble lines and above it is the handsomest Palladian window in Kentucky.
The interior woodwork, particularly the doors, windows, and
wainscots, are chaste in proportion and classic in detail.
A charming Federal example is the fine old house in St. Matthews,
now owned by Judge Churchill Humphrey (see Tour 16). This house
has a well-designed central mass flanked by outlying wings connected
by lower links. In massing, this structure recalls the Maryland plantation
houses and bears a striking resemblance to "Homewood," the
old Carroll mansion now on the campus of Johns Hopkins University
at Baltimore. The beautiful tetrastyle portico, with its delicate attenuated
columns, makes a splendid entrance to the spacious arched front
hall, which leads into a cross corridor giving access to the wings. In the
central mass just beyond the cross corridor are the high-ceilinged
living room at the left and the dining room at the right. The woodwork throughout the house is as refined as the frontal portico, the
whole constituting an excellent example of that simplicity, lightness,
and delicacy in carving that characterizes the "Federal" era at its best.
Lovely mantels grace each room.
Other outstanding examples of Georgian and Federal architecture are
the Crittenden house in Frankfort, "Wickland" near Bardstown; the
Eliza Cleveland and Lyle houses in Versailles; "Clay Hill" and the
Vaught (Burford) house, in Harrodsburg; "Castlewood," "Woodlawn"
(see Tour 4), and "Woodstock" at Richmond; "Rose Hill," "Eothan,"
the John W. Hunt house, "Loudoun," Bodley House, and the Benjamin
Gratz house, in Lexington; Xalapa Farm near Paris; the "Grange" and
the Clark farm on the Paris-Maysville Pike, various brick houses in
Shakertown (see Tour 15) ; the Colonel Andrew Muldrow house (see
Tour 14) near Milner; and various lesser, though often as interesting,
structures throughout the State.
The Greek Revival was tardy in reaching Kentucky. By 1825, however,
Greek details were beginning to make their appearance upon
otherwise Georgian structures and by 1830, largely through the instrumentality
of Gideon Shryock, the style was well established in Kentucky.
Shryock, who was born in Lexington where he learned the practical
art of building from his father, Mathias Shryock (1774-1833), pursued
the study of architecture with William Strickland of Philadelphia,
who, in turn, had been trained by Latrobe. Perhaps Shryock's most
notable work is the Old Capitol (now the State Historical Society
Building) in Frankfort. This beautiful and well proportioned edifice,
built of Kentucky "marble," immediately set a precedent for elegance
and dignity in public buildings in the State, and did much to stimulate
interest in classic design. Other important public structures, designed
by Shryock, are Morrison College, Lexington, the old Bank on Main
Street, the Blind Institute and the Jefferson County Court House, all
The Greek influence in Kentucky was first apparent in classical
porches, mantels, and other details, which were used to adorn masses
otherwise reminiscent of the past vogue in architecture. Soon, however,
the masses themselves took on more and more of the Greek temple and
all details doors, windows, and stairways became completely Hellenized.
It was at this period that the stately columned porticoes,
usually of the Doric or Ionic order, made their appearance. Gleaming
white, these classic portals, seen across a bluegrass greensward or discovered at the end of a shady tree-lined drive, are among the most delightful
sights in the older sections of the State.
One of the earliest true Greek Revival houses in Kentucky is the
Orlando Brown House in Frankfort, built in 1835 by John Brown of
"Liberty Hall" for his son. Gideon Shryock, architect of the Capitol,
was called to execute this task and here showed himself as much a
master at the design of private buildings as of public structures. The
simple four-square mass of this brick structure is crowned by a low
pediment fronting the street and pierced by a fanlight reminiscent
of the Georgian. A one-storied tetrastyle Ionic portico shelters a simple
rectangular doorway and forms a "support" to a triple-membered
unshuttered window in the upper hall, similar to the windows at
"Mansfield" described below. The four other windows of the fagade
have six-paned Georgian sashes, flanked by slatted blinds.
A full-blown Greek Revival example is "Mansfield," the Thomas
Hart Clay house, just east of the famous "Ashland" on the Richmond
Pike in Lexington. Like the Churchill Humphrey house, it has a dignified
central mass with low attic and ridge paralleling the street,
flanked at either end by lower masses with gable ends. Still lower,
links join the three masses and complete the ensemble. A feature of
the central fagade is a graceful tetrastyle Ionic portico sheltering a
Greek pilastered entrance, which is capped with transom and entablature.
The walls of the fagade are relieved by pilasters in brick with
membering at the corners and triple windows enframed in the same
style as the doorway. These Greek windows are not shuttered.
Throughout this house, inside and out, the chaste sobriety of the Greek
Revival at its best is exemplified.
While the typical Greek Revival house is fronted by a two-storied
portico of Doric or Ionic design, many examples in Kentucky exhibit
variations therefrom as charming as they are unusual. An excellent
and unique portico is that of the old Adam Childers House on the high
school campus at Versailles, where a splendid effect has been obtained,
not by the use of columns at all, but by the use of square piers simply
molded and decorated by a necking embodying a simple Greek
At "Diamond Point" in Harrodsburg a two-storied portico with
Doric columns, set between square end piers, shelters a rich and elaborately
carved doorway and a narrow lacy balcony that crosses the
fagade at the second story level.
Sometimes the use of a portico is dispensed with altogether and the
fagade is decorated with a two-storied recessed entrance, as in the Dr.
Robert Alexander Johnston house in Danville. Here simple fluted
Doric colonnades, set distyle in antis, form the entrance on the first
floor, while a similar arrangement above, provided with a balcony rail,
makes a small recessed porch. An important portal of this type, but
under a portico, is to be seen at the Moberly house in Harrodsburg.
Windows enframed with simple Greek architraves often exhibit
Greek anthemion and "honeysuckle" motifs as applied decoration.
Good examples of these are seen at the Stephenson house in Harrodsburg.
The plan of the Greek house in the main followed Georgian lines, an
arrangement which in the preceding period had been found admirably
adapted to living in Kentucky. Often Georgian details were retained
inside the house, an excellent example being the staircase, which seems
to have remained steadfastly Georgian even in the late Greek house,
as at "Scotland" on the Frankfort-Versailles Pike. But alongside the
Georgian staircases one finds heavy Greek enframed interior doors and
windows, mantels, and woodwork. Often Ionic and upon occasion
Corinthian columns carried a cornice, which, at the wall, rested upon
pilasters to form effectively trimmed openings between rooms. The
Doctor Carrick residence in Lexington, "White Hall," and the Helm
Place, south of Lexington, show good examples. At the latter, sliding
doors, encased by recessed wing walls, made their appearance. Interior
doors may have horizontal or vertical panels and may be enframed by
a splayed casing with Greek "ears" at the top, or by a rectangular
casing resting upon simple plinths and carved with fret or key designs
and including recessed corner blocks at the top. A prominent interior
feature of this period was the elaborate decorative plaster work in the
form of deep cornices and central medallions in the ceilings. The latter
were decorated with the Greek "water leaf," anthemion, acanthus, and
other motifs executed exquisitely in plaster of Paris, and were tinted
in delicate pastel colors; they formed the motif from which crystal
chandeliers were suspended.
Fine old examples of Greek Revival architecture are the McClure,
Barbee (Adams), and Chestnut houses in Danville; "Aspen Hall" and
the Ben Lee Harden House in Harrodsburg; the Showalter, Brooker,
and Shropshire houses at Georgetown (see Tour 4) ; the Colonel James
Marshall Brown and Carrothers houses in Bardstown ; the James Wier-
Duncan (Dr. Carrick) home in Lexington; and Helm Place, south of
that city. Certain of the buildings at the Kentucky School for the
Deaf at Danville, old Centre College (see Tour 5) in the same city,
Daughters' College (now the main hall of Beaumont Inn) at Harrodsburg.
A number of churches and residences in Kentucky are excellent
examples of the Gothic Revival style (1835-1860). The First Presbyterian
Church of Louisville (organized in 1816) erected a Gothic
church edifice with a square English tower, while St. Paul's Episcopal
Church in the same city built one of Gothic design with tower and
spire. An interesting church of this era is the fine old First Presbyterian
at Danville. Another very choice example is the little sexton's
house in the abandoned Episcopal Cemetery in Lexington, designed
just prior to the War between the States by John McMurtry, a prominent
architect of the city. The Gothic continued to be the popular
ecclesiastical style up to the war, and so strong was its momentum
that it survived as "Victorian Gothic" in the post-war period.
There are five typical examples of the Gothic Revival residences left
in Kentucky, four of brick and one of wood. Three of these the
Alexander-Alford house, "Ingleside" and "Loudoun," in Lexington
may be attributed to McMurtry, who made a trip to England to study
the details of the Tudor Gothic style of that country. The date of the
building of "Ingleside" is generally given as 1852. "Loudoun," on the
Bryan Station Pike (Loudoun Avenue) at the northern limits of Lexington,
now beautifully overgrown with English ivy, is a handsome
Gothic Revival house. "Mound Cottage," in Danville, said to have
been built in the late fifties, is another splendid example constructed
of brick; while "Woodland Villa" on the Paris-Maysville Pike is an
interesting example, built of wood.
The War between the States and the reconstruction period were generally
very discouraging eras for architecture in America. The blight
that settled over building in the Nation was, if anything, more pronounced
in the border States than elsewhere. Kentucky was a part of
the battleground, and many a fine ante bellum structure was pressed
into wartime service. As a result a number of fine old buildings, like
Bacon College at Harrodsburg and the "second" Medical Building of
Transylvania University at Lexington, both in the Greek style, were
burned during the war. Not until the expansive industrial period which
followed reconstruction was there a revival of building activity in Kentucky,
and by this time eclecticism, which has since characterized art
in America, had begun its riotous career.
During the reconstruction period American architecture reached its
depth of degradation. Indeed the country did not awaken to the ugliness
of its art until the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876
gave us some notion of the art of other nations. The period between
this exposition and that of Chicago in 1893 was a backward one, but
during this interim American students who had been studying architecture
abroad, particularly at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, returned
to give a new impetus to architectural design in America.
One of these students, Richard Morris Hunt, who had gone to Paris
in 1843, had returned home just prior to the War between the States.
During the seventies and eighties he was at the height of his professional
career and, being a champion of the French Renaissance, generated
a great vogue for this style through the example of his works.
Following his precedent, buildirigs throughout the Union were conceived
and erected in the mansard-roofed style, capitols, courthouses, city
halls, post offices, and large residences in particular being adapted to
this manner. The Louisville City Hall and the old Post Office (1886-
1892), at the northeast corner of Fourth and Chestnut Streets, together
with other buildings in the city and elsewhere in the State, were part
of this movement.
Just at the close of the War between the States, Henry Hobson
Richardson, a native of Louisiana, returned from his architectural
studies in Paris. Soon he was in practice, and, although he died at
the age of forty-eight, his influence upon American architecture was
most pronounced. He espoused the Romanesque manner of the south
of France and the north of Spain, and designed many buildings
throughout the Union in a manner so highly personalized that it has
since been called the Richardsonian Romanesque. This vogue, although
highly eclectic, so captivated the American people that Montgomery
Schuyler, an architectural critic and writer of the time, hailed it as the
"American National style." Trinity Church in Boston is, perhaps,
Richardson's most beautiful building. Kentucky, in common with
other States, exhibited considerable enthusiasm for the Romanesque
and within the State there are a number of examples in this manner,
among them the post offices at Lexington (1886-89), Owensboro
(1888-89), Paducah (1881-83), and Richmond (1893-97); the Lexington
City Hall; and the Central Christian Church in the same city;
the Christian Church in Cynthiana, and the State Street Methodist
Church in Bowling Green. Essentially a style adapted to construction
in stone or brick, the Romanesque is still popular in some sections for
hospitals, schools, and churches.
Once eclecticism had set in, the architect felt free to examine Old
World styles and to adopt any that seemed appropriate to the task at
hand. This led to an infusion into American architecture of Italian,
English, French, and Spanish ideas and motifs, and most cities show
the personal predilections of the architects who designed their structures.
Not finding a better style than the Gothic for church buildings,
architects generally reverted to this manner for ecclesiastical
work. Certainly the influence of Ralph Adams Cram and his associates
in the East has helped to fix upon America the Gothic as a church
style; upon occasion, other structures have been built in this manner.
A good example is the old post office in Covington (1875-79), which
is an American adaptation of the Italian Gothic popular at the time it
was built. In a sense the continuity of the Gothic Revival has never
been broken, except for the interlude of the War between the States,
when most architectural activity ceased. Thus by 1872 Cincinnatus
Shryock, brother of Gideon, was constructing the First Presbyterian
Church in Lexington of brick in Gothic style. St. Rose Church at St.
Rose, Kentucky, and the church of Gethsemane Abbey (see Tour 6)
belong also to this continuation of the Gothic Revival, which we generally
call Neo-Gothic. Kentucky is well supplied with churches of
this type, many of them, like the Chapel of the Good Shepherd in
Lexington, being of very excellent design.
American architecture, with the exception of the Romanesque and
Gothic infiltrations, has derived its inspiration largely from the Classic.
Therefore, when the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 blossomed forth in
forms almost exclusively classic, the country was very ready to accept
them; and, as a result, American architecture for the past forty years
has remained decidedly classic in flavor. This classicism has been attained
at times through the adoption of the Greek or Roman forms, at
other times through a skillful rendition of American utilities in the
spirit of the Italian Renaissance, as in the new State Capitol at Frankfort.
An interesting example of the adaptation of Italian Renaissance
architecture was the famous Gait House, on Main Street in Louisville,
which showed unmistakable inspiration from the Palazzo Farnese in
Henry Whitestone was the architect of a great number of commendable
structures in the city of Louisville, which, in general, may be said
to be of classic design. In addition to structures with a decidedly
antique flavor, like the new Post Office in Louisville and the Lincoln
Memorial (see Tour 6), on the Lincoln Farm at Hodgenville, there
has been a recent tendency to revive another style of classic derivation,
the American Georgian. The Christian Church in Harrodsburg, the
new Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and many residences
throughout the State indicate a growing regard for indigenous American
This information was Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project
of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Kentucky - 1939