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Children have always found Ashland to be a magical place to play.  From Henry Clay’s children and grandchildren, to James and Susan’s brood, to the McDowell girls, the estate’s young occupants delighted in their surroundings.  And it was not only the Clay children who grew up at Ashland: generations of African-American children of enslaved or employed parents, too, lived out their young lives there.  There are numerous accounts of children visiting and playing at Ashland—from Mary Todd to George Clooney (!)—but those must wait for another day…

For now, here are photos of some of the children who called Ashland home…or playground.

Clay’s grandson who spent many of his formative years at Ashland, Henry Clay III, with Lucretia

Detail of a popular print of Henry Clay’s Ashland, depicting children at play in front of the mansion

Three of James and Susan’s children in front of the new Ashland, c1856

James and Susan’s son and pet dog in front of new Ashland, c1856

Clay’s great granddaughter, Madeline McDowell, a young girl when the family moved to Ashland

Madeline (right) at Ashland, pointing children’s attention to the camera

Two children in front of Ashland’s smokehouse and chicken coop

Clay great-great grandson Billy McDowell in Ashland’s conservatory

McDowell children at Ashland, from left: William Brock Jr, Henry Clay McDowell Brock, and Alice Dudley McDowell, 1917

Children on the back terrace at Ashland with Aunt Mag

Three sisters, Marie, Antoinnette, and Blanche Knight, and “playground supervisor” Myrtle Hummons, 1917 at Ashland

McDowell employees, Agnes and Bob Holton, with children at Ashland

1921 celebration of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge’s life at Ashand’s back lawn. Her sister Nannette had a place in her heart for the children of Lexington’s Lincoln school, for whom she hosted an annual lawn party in memory of Madeline, who had founded the school.

Ashland has long sponsored programs for children, like the popular Teas

Girls awaiting teatime

Kate the Cow has been a favorite of children at Ashland’s Family Farm Day

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