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Clay Lancaster's Kentucky

Clay Lancaster's Kentucky: Architectural Photographs of a Preservation Pioneer

James D. Birchfield
Foreword by Roger W. Moss
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Clay Lancaster's Kentucky
    Book Description:

    "Clay Lancaster was infected by a love of architecture at an early age, a gentle madness from which he never cared to recover." -- From the Foreword, by Roger W. Moss

    It is easy to take for granted the visual environment that we inhabit. Familiarity with routes of travel and places of work or leisure leads to indifference, and we fail to notice incremental changes. When a dilapidated building is eliminated by new development, it is forgotten as soon as its replacement becomes a part of our daily landscape. When an addition is grafted onto the shell of a house fallen out of fashion or function, onlookers might notice at first, but the memory of its original form is eventually lost. Also forgotten is the use a building once served. From historic homes to livestock barns, each structure holds a place in the community and can tell us as much about its citizens as their portraits and memoirs. Such is the vital yet intangible role that architecture plays in our collective memory.

    Clay Lancaster (1917-2000) began during the Great Depression to document and to encourage the preservation of America's architectural patrimony. He was a pioneer of American historic preservation before the movement had a name. Although he established himself as an expert on Brooklyn brownstones and California bungalows, the nationally known architectural historian also spent four decades photographing architecture in his native Kentucky. Lancaster did not consider himself a photographer. His equipment consisted of nothing more complex than a handheld camera, and his images were only meant for his own personal use in documenting memorable and endangered structures. He had the eye of an artist, however, and recognized the importance of vernacular architecture.

    The more than 150 duotone photographs inClay Lancaster's Kentuckypreserve the beauty of commonplace buildings as well as historic mansions and monuments. With insightful commentary by James D. Birchfield about the photographs and about Lancaster's work in Kentucky, the book documents the many buildings and architectural treasures -- both existing and long gone -- whose images and stories remain a valuable part of the state's heritage.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6051-1
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. [Illustration]
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Roger W. Moss

    In a candid moment, many architectural historians will admit to an early career of trespass and housebreaking. No less a figure than the renowned author John Harris, OBE, former head of the Royal Institute of British Architects Drawing Collection, even subtitled his 1998 autobiographyConfessions of a Country House Snooper. And since I’m among friends, I might as well admit to my own career of crime in the 1950s when, like Clay Lancaster two decades before, I jumped many fences to reach abandoned houses in danger of being torched by vagrants or pulled down by a farmer’s tractor. Our intent...

    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  6. [Illustration]
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
    (pp. 1-10)

    When Clay Lancaster was four years old, a bronze sculpture featuring his figure was installed on the courthouse lawn in Lexington, Kentucky.¹ Since 1921, the effigy of this future polymath has stood between two bronze generals—John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge—monumentalized as a public work of art. It was a fitting beginning, for Lancaster was absorbed with the arts all his life, and his involvement with the creative impulse never left him. Clay Lancaster is remembered as a scholar, a critic, an architectural historian, an orientalist, an author of books for children, an artist, an illustrator, a...

    (pp. 11-128)
    (pp. 129-130)