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Antebellum Architecture of Kentucky

Antebellum Architecture of Kentucky

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Antebellum Architecture of Kentucky
    Book Description:

    During the eight decades preceding the Civil War, Kentucky was the scene of tremendous building activity. Located in the western section of the original English colonies, midway between North and South, Kentucky saw the rise of an architecture that combined the traditions of nationally known designers, eager to achieve the refinements of their English mother culture, alongside the innovativeness and bold originality proper to the frontier. Tradition thus provided a tangible link with world architectural development, while innovation offered refreshing variations. The result was a distinctive regional architecture.

    In his newest look at Kentucky architecture, Clay Lancaster broadens his scope to include analyses of significant structures from throughout the commonwealth, illustrating the entire range of stylistic development. Like his acclaimed earlier book Antebellum Houses of the Bluegrass, the current volume provides historical background as well as drawings, photographs, and floor plans, showing both general features and details.

    Among the many Kentucky buildings discussed are examples by such well-known early American architects as Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Thomas Jefferson, James Dakin, Isaiah Rogers, Alexander J. Davis, and Francis Costigan, as well as the work of local master builders such as Matthew Kennedy, Micajah Burnett, Gideon Shryock, Thomas Lewinski, and John McMurtry. Also included are Kentucky buildings designed from nationally distributed architectural books and builders' guides.

    Lancaster gives special attention to the Geometric Style, which evolved further and produced more noteworthy monuments in Kentucky than anywhere else in America. Such buildings, in turn, bestowed a simplicity and straightforwardness on structures in later styles.

    As Lancaster shows, the architecture that resulted from Kentucky's fertile eclecticism constitutes a rich and rewarding architectural heritage. All lovers of fine architecture will treasure this handsome and informative book.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6168-6
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. DEDICATION To the Founding Members of The Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation
    (pp. vii-ix)
    (pp. x-xii)
    (pp. 1-4)

    Antebellum Architecture of Kentuckyis not a history of Kentucky architecture, and it certainly is not a survey of pre-Civil War building here either. Its concern is with architectural heritage, with the manifestation and derivation of architectural forms, with building as a fine art, and with its quality as opposed to its quantity. The examples are a selection. In contrast, the author’sVestiges of the Venerable City(1978) was both an architectural history and an inventory of old Lexington buildings, andAnte Bellum Houses of the Bluegrass(1961), together with the mapAnte Bellum Suburban Villas and Rural Residences of...


      (pp. 6-28)

      IT MAY SEEM REMARKABLE that in wooded America log houses were not built and used by the earliest settlers from across the Atlantic. The only precedent for log construction which the English brought was the stake fence. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Pilgrims replaced their temporary wigwams with half-timber shelters. In Virginia, before the middle of the seventeenth century, buildings both of half-timber and brick were erected, and the latter material was given increasing preference. Horizontal log construction was introduced to the New World by the Swedes, who settled along the Delaware River in 1638.¹ As in Swedish peasant...

      (pp. 29-44)

      HEWN FRAME HOUSES flourished in Kentucky during the last decades of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth. In this period of rapid expansion, frame construction fit the tempo of the times. Lexington was described in John Bradford’s local newspaper in the late 1780s as the “budding metropolis” made up of “about fifty houses, partly frame and hewn logs, with the chimneys outside.”¹ Less than ten years later, according to the only extant contemporary statistical source,Charless’ Almanack for 1806, Lexington had grown to “104 Brick, 10 Stone & 187 Frame and log Houses.”² François Michaux, who visited Kentucky in 1802,...

      (pp. 45-62)

      KENTUCKY’S RESOURCES included building stone as well as wood. In a sense stone was used before timbers, inasmuch as stone foundations were laid preliminary to constructing log walls, as in the first cabin built by the Walker party near Barbourville. Surface stones are easily attainable, and they require no seasoning prior to building. Irregularities of form and size, however, make them difficult to lay without cushioning with mortar, which was scarce—if not unavailable—in the early days, though clay was substituted. Examples of dry stone walls of chest height still exist along back roads and are among the most...

      (pp. 63-86)

      THE BRICK BUILDING tradition predominant in Kentucky stems from Virginia. Bricks were manufactured at Jamestown (founded 1607) practically from the beginning. They were used for chimneys and nogging in frame houses; however, it is uncertain when the brick-walled building first appeared. The town of Henrico, about forty miles up the James River, was described in 1611 as having “competent and decent houses, the first storie all of bricks,” and foundations had been laid for an ambitious church of brick.¹ The earliest brick structure in Virginia of which any part (foundations) survives is the First State House at Jamestown, a group...


      (pp. 88-104)

      NORTH AMERICA was colonized largely by religious groups from England and northern Europe. The Reformation, which launched a successful separation of the Protestants from the Catholic church, begot a variety of discordant sects. The New World offered asylum to abused minority groups. Thus the Pilgrims (Puritans) came to Massachusetts, the Quakers (Society of Friends) to Pennsylvania, the Anglicans to Virginia, and Huguenots and other Protestants farther south. By the end of the eighteenth century sectarian groups began moving inland. The three principal groups to come into Kentucky were the Traveling Church, the Trappists, and the Shakers. The Traveling Church created...


      (pp. 106-119)

      PRACTICALLY SIMULTANEOUS with the first purely functional brick buildings in Kentucky was the appearance of sophisticated architectonic form—an artistic ideal that went beyond mere fulfillment of the need for shelter and was endowed with overtones of a refined sense of space concepts and attractive decorative details. The source of inspiration had come from the established culture on the Atlantic seaboard and was traceable back to the Renaissance movement in England and continental Europe. In Kentucky the manifestation never attained High Renaissance conformity, but it gained in having regional originality, ethnic appeal, and down-to-earth human scale. It was an inland...

      (pp. 120-130)

      THE SIGNATURE OF Georgian architecture in Kentucky was the frontispiece flanked by slender colonnettes with a lunette over the door. In some instances it was the only external feature of the house that partook of style. This condition stemmed from the practice of division of labor, whereby a carver was engaged to dress up the entrance, along with fireplaces and other elements inside. The simplest doorway form had a horizontal entablature atop the fanlight. Examples include the Marshall Key House (ca. 1815) in Washington, and Clay Hill (ca. 1812) in Harrodsburg (fig. 6.4). Others, to be discussed adorn Liberty Hall,...

      (pp. 131-156)

      THE GEOMETRIC PHASE of Federal architecture produced some of the finest and most distinctive specimens of Kentucky building design. That it was primarily a provincial manifestation is indicated by its private patronage of domestic examples; whereas group and institutional endeavors more often veered to the other two nationally (and internationally) accepted types, the backward-looking Georgian and forward-looking neoclassic. In a sense the geometric was an advanced order of early styleless brick construction, a step beyond mere functionalism, embracing new and innovative forms with a flair. As has been said, its signature was the plain fanlighted doorway, and its salient feature,...

      (pp. 157-180)

      THE CLASSIC REVIVAL, or neoclassic, architecture of Europe and England was a reaffirmation of Renaissance ideals of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Italy and of a somewhat later era in northern and western Europe and the British Isles. Between the Renaissance and Classic Revival styles throughout Europe as well as to some extent in the colonies were the baroque and rococo of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Classic Revival came out in full force during the early Republic period in the United States. As this was also the time when Kentucky was being settled, it awaited a stage...


      (pp. 182-247)

      THE GREEK REVIVAL style of architecture was classical insofar as it was based upon and furthered the most salient traits of the Federal style it supplanted. It was also romantic in that it burst upon the American scene in one specific building, rather than growing gradually out of its predecessor as the Federal had from the colonial Georgian. However, the Greek Revival style was in no measure as romantic as the contemporary Gothic Revival or the exotic styles that had practically nothing to do with what had gone before. Although Greek Revival architecture continued to use some Roman forms and...

      (pp. 248-284)

      ALTHOUGH AS A STYLE the Gothic Revival enjoyed duration and distribution in America equal to the Greek Revival, it fell far short in patronage. Its use got off to a slow start at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but by the middle of the century building activities in Gothic matched those in Greek. As with the Greek Revival, the archetypes for Gothic Revival architecture were predominantly religious buildings, but instead of being ancient temples of the Mediterranean, they were medieval cathedrals and lesser parish churches of western Europe and especially England. As the religion itself was transplanted and these...

      (pp. 285-314)

      MOST KENTUCKY BUILDINGS predating the Civil War belong to stylistic categories already discussed in the preceding chapters. The residue are designated rather loosely under a heading having a geographic import, which pertains to the peninsula of Italy. As Gothic Revival examples may be divided into the castellated and the pointed or the cottage varieties, so the Italianate may be parceled into those that are indebted to the sophisticated architecture of the Renaissance and those that derive from less pretentious, mostly residential, buildings in rural areas. The former type of Italianate architecture actually has a two-fold ancestry, the more remote being...

    (pp. 315-317)

    THE CIVIL WAR was a period characterized by disruption. It cleft the United States into North and South, separating industrial New England and the commercial middle states from the raw materials and export items produced in what became the Confederacy. It uprooted the economy and distorted the emotions on both sides. It severed a sequence of events that had been evolving in this country since before the American Revolution. The trials and struggles of that long half-decade from the beginning of 1861 until the late spring of 1865 wrought a great change in peoples’ values. The united nation that emerged...

    (pp. 318-320)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 321-331)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 332-338)