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Ante Bellum Houses of the Bluegrass

Ante Bellum Houses of the Bluegrass: The Development of Residential Architecture in Fayette County, Kentucky

Copyright Date: 1961
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Ante Bellum Houses of the Bluegrass
    Book Description:

    The ante bellum homes of Lexington and Fayette County, Kentucky, are both more numerous and more distinctive in design than those of many communities of similar age. Founded in 1775, Lexington by the turn of the century had become the chief cultural center north of New Orleans and west of the Alleghenies. During the eight decades between the Revolution and the Civil War, Fayette County was the focus of converging streams of immigration, and a phenomenal amount of building activity took place in Lexington and the surrounding area. Although local builders followed the trends of national architecture, they were not primarily concerned with "correctness," and developed a provincial style which was distinguished by originality and a high level of craftsmanship.

    InAnte Bellum Houses of the Bluegrass, Clay Lancaster seeks to define the indigenous character of Fayette County building, which he concludes is of unusually distinguished quality. A second aim is the presentation of authentic data as a guide for intelligent restoration of existing old buildings, many of which have been defaced by unnecessary changes and inappropriate additions. He traces the development of house building in this restricted area from the first crude log cabins, through frame, stone, and early brick residences, to the substantial homes built by wealthy landowners and merchants in the mid-nineteenth century.

    The text is supplemented by 200 line drawings which present the essential features of each building free from the later alterations and decay which would be recorded by the camera. These illustrations have been compiled on the basis of intensive research, from old photographs, maps, drawings, and other records. An album of halftone illustrations, many of which are reproductions of old photographs of buildings which have been altered or demolished, supplements these illustrations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6515-8
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
    (pp. ix-ix)
    Clay Lancaster
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. x-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    Fayetie County is in the heart of the Bluegrass country of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, directly south of Cincinnati, the Queen City of the Ohio Valley, southwest of Maysville (called Limestone prior to 1787), the old debarkation port for settlers arriving by river from the seaboard states, and north-northwest of Cumberland Gap, the chief southern pass through the Allegheny Mountain range. Kentucky was reserved for a hunting ground by Indians living north and south of its boundaries, and the absence of aboriginal encampments meant limited opposition to colonization, which therefore took place here earlier than in surrounding territories. Fayette County...

    (pp. 1-10)

    There was nothing that could be called architecture, and little that might be considered legitimate building, in Fayette County at the time the white man arrived. A previous race had constructed earthworks and stone pyramids, described, respectively, by the scientist Constantine Rafinesque (Western Review,1820) and the historian John Filson.¹ Catacombs containing embalmed bodies were reported in Thomas Ashe’sTravelsof 1806.² But these remains made no contribution to the construction program that was to follow.

    Pioneer building grew out of very humble beginnings. The first scouts erected flimsy shelters intended only for a night’s occupancy. These consisted of a...

    (pp. 11-14)

    Log houses by 1800 were considered passé, and people living in them began to have them covered with siding of shiplapped boards and painted. Besides a stylistic effect, this provided protection from the weather. It is a remarkable fact that wind- and water-powered sawmills put in an appearance in America long before they were operated in England, where they were eschewed for promoting unemployment.¹ In the enterprising colonies, production was given first consideration, plenty of work being available for every industrious individual. Sawmills existed in New England prior to the second quarter of the seventeenth century. By the mid-1790’s, mills...

    (pp. 15-18)

    The directory for 1806 informs us that only ten out of about 300 houses in Lexington at that time were of stone. Because the manufacture of brick began soon after the founding of the town, the small percentage of stone building is not surprising. Stonework seems to have been more in demand for the beautiful and excellently laid fences for which the Bluegrass is famous, and for foundations and chimneys of early timber houses, than for walls of dwellings. Yet stone houses did and do exist; they are to be found, like the log houses, mostly along the larger streams...

    (pp. 19-45)

    With the advent during the 1780’s of brick, which became the prevalent wall medium from this time onward, houses cannot be characterized according to the building substance. The use of brick, a processed material, signified that an advance had been made beyond the resources of pioneer days. Houses no longer were built only for shelter, but began to assume certain stylistic refinements made possible by the availability of a growing variety of materials, both imported and of local origin.

    Brickmaking headed the list of home industries pertaining to building. One hears everywhere from the tenants of old houses in this...

    (pp. 46-66)

    During the second and third decades of the nineteenth century in Kentucky, the characteristics of the early brick buildings described in the preceding chapter came to be regarded as archaic. Two new trends arose as offshoots from the early brick architecture, and they may be traced in two distinct groups of houses built during this transitional period in Fayette County. The first of these represents an imaginative architecture based upon simple organizations of geometric forms—an architecture local in character and almost unconcerned with style. The second was a provincial reflection of the American classic style known as Federal, which...

    (pp. 67-78)

    The assertion of originality—in the stress laid upon abstract elements such as fan doorways, unusual geometric forms, and compact, low masses capped by hipped roofs—manifested in Bluegrass house building during the second decade of the nineteenth century was superseded after 1820 by architectural effects gained through the use of classic orders, pediments, and arcades. This was a regional version of classicism which (unlike the later revivals) was without affectation, yet lacked the freshness and distinction of the brief geometric phase, The obvious limitation of strict classicism was adherence to architectural orders. An order is a conventionalization wherein the...

    (pp. 79-113)

    The Greek Revival movement literally came into being in America with Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s Bank of Pennsylvania, designed in the spring of 1798 and brought to completion during the summer of 1800.¹ The popularity of the Greek Revival in this country was inevitable for several reasons: it was the logical conclusion of the classic idiom that had been gaining momentum since before the Revolution; it had a bigness and simplicity compatible with American ambition and directness, and in line with new machinery developments; and it struck a chord responsive to New World ideals, the ancient Greeks maintaining the freedom of...

    (pp. 114-131)

    The classic tradition of the Renaissance, which culminated in America in the Greek Revival, flourished with increasing intensity up to the time of the Civil War, yet during the last two decades of this era a rival appeared on the scene as a serious challenge to its supremacy, The rival was romanticism, which found its first full expression in the Gothic Revival. whereas the Greek Revival marked the end of one movement, the Gothic Revival was the beginning of another. Romanticism gained and maintained primary position over classicism throughout the postwar period, at least up to the resurgence of the...

    (pp. 132-146)

    During the period of the revivals, a third style left a deep impression upon Kentucky domestic architecture. This third style was called Italianate, and drew its inspiration from the lesser houses of the Italian peninsula. Whereas the great Italian public buildings and palaces took on new characteristics with the passage of time, from the protoclassic of the Etruscans, through the Roman, medieval, and into later periods, the fundamental design of secondary dwellings remained practically unchanged from the beginning of historic times down to the nineteenth century. The type was well suited for adaptation to houses in democratic America.

    The Italianate...

    (pp. 147-148)

    It was a far cry from the first single-room log cabin of the Revolutionary period to the last spacious hard-burned brick villa of the time of the Civil War. During this interim of over eighty years the residence in central Kentucky was transformed from a minimum shelter to a relatively sumptuous, romantic dwelling. Primitive functionalism had given way to a long metamorphosis, acted upon by a sequence of incoming fashion trends and technical advances, which finally culminated in a residence that enveloped space to produce the grandeur of visual effect.

    We have seen in the houses of the region the...

    (pp. 149-154)
    (pp. 155-160)
    (pp. 161-174)
    (pp. 175-187)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 188-188)