Ashland (Henry Clay home)

Ashland (Henry Clay home)

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Ashland is the name of the plantation of the nineteenth-century Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

 statesman Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

, located in Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 63rd largest in the US. Known as the "Thoroughbred City" and the "Horse Capital of the World", it is located in the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass region...

, in the central Bluegrass region
Bluegrass region
The Bluegrass Region is a geographic region in the state of Kentucky, United States. It occupies the northern part of the state and since European settlement has contained a majority of the state's population and its largest cities....

 of the state. It is a registered National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

.

The Ashland Stakes
Ashland Stakes
The Ashland Stakes is an American Thoroughbred horse race held annually in early April at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, United States. It and the Ashland Oaks, the Kentucky Association racetrack's predecessor race, were named for Ashland, the homestead and breeding farm of statesman...

, a Thoroughbred horse race
Thoroughbred horse race
Thoroughbred horse racing is a worldwide sport and industry involving the racing of Thoroughbred horses. It is governed by different national bodies. There are two forms of the sport: Flat racing and National Hunt racing...

 at Keeneland Race Course
Keeneland
Keeneland is a Thoroughbred horse racing facility and sales complex in Lexington, Kentucky, USA. Operated by the Keeneland Association, Inc., it is also known for its reference library on the sport, which contains more than 10,000 volumes, an extensive videocassette collection, and a substantial...

 that has ran annually since the race course first opened in 1936, was named for the historically important estate.

History of the estate


Henry Clay
Henry Clay
Henry Clay, Sr. , was a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky separately in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives...

 came to Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 63rd largest in the US. Known as the "Thoroughbred City" and the "Horse Capital of the World", it is located in the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass region...

 from Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 in 1797. He began buying land for his plantation in 1804.1 The Ashland farm—which during Clay's lifetime was outside of the city limits—at its largest consisted of over 600 acres (242.8 ha). It is unclear whether Clay named the plantation or retained a prior name, but he was referring to his estate as "Ashland" by 1809.2 The name derives from the ash forest that stood at the site. Clay and his family resided at Ashland from c. 1806 until his death in 1852 (his widow Lucretia Clay moved out in 1854). Given his political career, Clay spent most of the years between 1810-1829 in Washington, DC. He was a major planter, owning up to 60 slaves to operate his plantation.

Among the slaves were Aaron and Charlotte Dupuy
Charlotte Dupuy
Charlotte Dupuy, also called Lottie Charlotte Dupuy was still living in 1860. She and her husband Aaron were listed by name as free persons in the 1860 Census for Fayette County, Kentucky. They were respectively 70 and 76 years old...

, and their children Charles and Mary Ann. Clay took them with him to Washington, DC. Their lives have recently gained new recognition in an exhibit at the Decatur House
Decatur House
Decatur House is a historic home in Washington, D.C., named after its first owner and occupant Stephen Decatur. The house is located northwest of Lafayette Square, at the southwest corner of Jackson Place and H Street, near the White House...

, where they served Henry Clay for nearly two decades. In 1829, 17 years before the more famous Dred Scott
Dred Scott v. Sandford
Dred Scott v. Sandford, , also known as the Dred Scott Decision, was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that people of African descent brought into the United States and held as slaves were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U.S...

challenge, Charlotte Dupuy sued Henry Clay for her freedom and that of her two children in Washington circuit court. She was ordered to stay in Washington while the court case proceeded, and lived there for 18 months, working for Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren was the eighth President of the United States . Before his presidency, he was the eighth Vice President and the tenth Secretary of State, under Andrew Jackson ....

, the next Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

. Clay took Aaron, Charles and Mary Ann Dupuy with him when he returned to Ashland. When the court ruled against Dupuy and she would not return voluntarily to Kentucky, Clay's agent had her arrested. Clay had Dupuy transported to New Orleans and placed with his daughter and son-in-law, where she was enslaved for another decade. Finally in 1840 Clay freed Charlotte and Mary Ann Dupuy, and in 1844 freed her son Charles Dupuy.

Clay had divided the Ashland estate among three sons. After Clay's death, son James Brown Clay
James Brown Clay
James Brown Clay was a Democratic Party member of the United States House of Representatives from Kentucky....

 owned and occupied Ashland proper and a surrounding approximately 325 acres (131.5 ha) tract. James Clay rebuilt the house and his family resided there until his death in 1864. His widow Susan Jacob Clay put the estate up for sale in 1866.

Kentucky University purchased Ashland and used it as part of its campus. University founder and regent John Bryan Bowman
John Bryan Bowman
John Bryan Bowman was a 19th-century American lawyer and educator, most notably, as the founder Kentucky University and the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky. He is the grandson of Kentucky frontiersman Abraham Bowman, as well as the grandnephew of Isaac, Joseph and John Jacob Bowman...

 occupied the mansion. The Agricultural and Mechanical College (Kentucky A & M) was situated on Clay's former farm. Kentucky University split into what became Transylvania University
Transylvania University
Transylvania University is a private, undergraduate liberal arts college in Lexington, Kentucky, United States, affiliated with the Christian Church . The school was founded in 1780. It offers 38 majors, and pre-professional degrees in engineering and accounting...

 and the University of Kentucky
University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky, also known as UK, is a public co-educational university and is one of the state's two land-grant universities, located in Lexington, Kentucky...

, and sold Ashland in 1882.

Henry Clay's granddaughter Anne Clay McDowell and her husband Henry Clay McDowell
Henry Clay McDowell
Henry Clay McDowell was an American businessman and noted Standardbred horse breeder.In 1857, he married Anne Smith Clay, daughter of Henry Clay, Jr. with whom he had seven children...

 purchased the estate (consisting of approximately 325 acres (131.5 ha) and outbuildings). They moved in with their children in 1883. Their eldest daughter Nannette McDowell Bullock continued to occupy Ashland until her death in 1948. She founded the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation, which purchased and preserved Ashland. The historic house museum opened to the public in 1950.

The mansion


Henry Clay began building his Federal style house c. 1806 (see Federal architecture
Federal architecture
Federal-style architecture is the name for the classicizing architecture built in the United States between c. 1780 and 1830, and particularly from 1785 to 1815. This style shares its name with its era, the Federal Period. The name Federal style is also used in association with furniture design...

). He added two wings between 1811–1814, designed for him by Benjamin Latrobe
Benjamin Latrobe
Benjamin Henry Boneval Latrobe was a British-born American neoclassical architect best known for his design of the United States Capitol, along with his work on the Baltimore Basilica, the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States...

. Inferior building materials, particularly a porous type of brick, resulted in an unstable structure. The building was likely damaged in the New Madrid earthquake
New Madrid earthquake
The 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes were an intense intraplate earthquake series beginning with an initial pair of very large earthquakes on December 16, 1811. These earthquakes remain the most powerful earthquakes ever to hit the eastern United States in recorded history...

 and aftershocks of 1811-12, Clay's many repairs could never completely stabilize the house.

Seeing no viable alternative, Clay's son James B. Clay, opted to rebuild the house with the goals of living there with his family and paying fitting tribute to his father. James had the house razed by the end of 1854, and rebuilding was completed by 1857. Local architect Thomas Lewinski
Thomas Lewinski
[File:Ashland HC.JPG|right|thumb|Ashland, the [[Henry Clay]] plantationThomas Lewinski was an architect in Kentucky. Born in England, he had immigrated to the United States. For his work at Allenhurst and elsewhere, Thomas Lewinski was known in his day as one of the leading architects of the Greek...

 designed the new structure, which utilized features of the original house: the footprint and foundation, floorplan, and massing. But Lewinski aided James in updating the house stylistically. With many Italianate features, the resulting mansion is a mix of Federal architecture
Federal architecture
Federal-style architecture is the name for the classicizing architecture built in the United States between c. 1780 and 1830, and particularly from 1785 to 1815. This style shares its name with its era, the Federal Period. The name Federal style is also used in association with furniture design...

 and Italianate details. Inside, James employed Greek Revival features and decorated the home lavishly (see:Victorian decorative arts
Victorian decorative arts
Victorian decorative arts refers to the style of decorative arts during the Victorian era. The Victorian era is known for its eclectic revival and interpretation of historic styles and the introduction of cross-cultural influences from the middle east and Asia in furniture, fittings, and Interior...

 with imported furnishings purchased in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

.

During the Kentucky University period, Regent John Bowman utilized part of the mansion to house and display the University Natural History Museum.

When granddaughter Anne Clay McDowell came to Ashland in 1883, she and her husband remodeled and modernized the house, updating it with gas lighting (later, electricity), indoor plumbing, and telephone service.

The farm


The cash crop grown on the farm was hemp
Hemp
Hemp is mostly used as a name for low tetrahydrocannabinol strains of the plant Cannabis sativa, of fiber and/or oilseed varieties. In modern times, hemp has been used for industrial purposes including paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction, health food and fuel with modest...

. Merino sheep and six other species of European livestock were imported and bred on the farm. Clay's record book of his breeding operation, including the Herefords which he introduced, is now displayed at Ashland.

Additional reading

  • Archives of Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate, Lexington, KY
  • Brooks, Eric. Ashland: The Henry Clay Estate. Images of America Series. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2007
  • Remini, Robert V. Henry Clay: Statesman For The Union. New York: W.W. Norton, 1991.
  • Clay Family Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
    Library of Congress
    The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

  • University of Kentucky Special Collections.
  • Transylvania University
    Transylvania University
    Transylvania University is a private, undergraduate liberal arts college in Lexington, Kentucky, United States, affiliated with the Christian Church . The school was founded in 1780. It offers 38 majors, and pre-professional degrees in engineering and accounting...

    , Special Collections.
  • James F. Hopkins, editor, The Papers of Henry Clay. Mary W.M. Hargreaves, associate editor. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1959-1992. ISBN 0813100569 (v. 6)
  • Fazio, Michael W. and Patrick A. Snadon. The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. ISBN 0801881048
  • Hopkins, James F. A History of the Hemp Industry in Kentucky, Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1998. ISBN 0813109302

External links