The Fate of Ashland After Clay’s Death: Son James Makes a Difficult Decision

YOU ARE HERE -> 1850s In the final months before Henry Clay died in June of 1852, his son James B. Clay promised his father that he would assume the responsibility for Ashland, as Clay had desired.  James and his family planned to occupy the historic estate, but there was a serious problem: Henry Clay’s … More The Fate of Ashland After Clay’s Death: Son James Makes a Difficult Decision

Interpreting Henry Clay in a Charming Home Environment

YOU ARE HERE -> 1950s-1970s Unlike many historic house museums, the public display of Ashland’s collection began during the domestic life of the founder’s—Henry Clay’s—home some 150 years before.  The coexistence of home and museum actually has a long history at Ashland; exhibiting and interpreting artifacts for the public has been occurring for almost two … More Interpreting Henry Clay in a Charming Home Environment

Giving the Impression that Henry Clay “may return at any moment”

YOU ARE HERE -> 1880s-1940s When Henry Clay’s son James and his wife Susan left Ashland during the Civil War, they placed their precious Clay heirlooms safely in family hands.  Their family line would retain a large portion of Henry Clay artifacts, many of which eventually found their way back to Ashland after 1950.  But … More Giving the Impression that Henry Clay “may return at any moment”

We Were Soon Perfectly At Home, As Everyone Must Be With Mr. Clay

YOU ARE HERE -> c1820s-1852 Henry Clay rose in an era when appearing to be a “commoner” was advantageous for one’s political image.  Andrew Jackson, the “common man,” benefited from this perception.  Henry Clay himself was known as the “Great Commoner,” but for Clay this was no act; in his words and behaviors, he personified … More We Were Soon Perfectly At Home, As Everyone Must Be With Mr. Clay

The Curious Case of The Golden Draperies

A bit of mid-twentieth-century Ashland history… On proud display in the Drawing Room for Ashland’s 1950 Opening Day were two pairs of elegant golden draperies.  These sophisticated window dressings would be for decades among the most prized of the museum’s artifacts. Director Lorraine Seay told the Lexington Herald-Leader in 1953, “Probably the items on display … More The Curious Case of The Golden Draperies

Messy Generational ‘Layers’ Complicate Museum’s Task

YOU ARE HERE -> 1950s Historic house museums often face difficult decisions regarding which period of the house’s history to interpret.  This interpretive decision has proven to be a most complicated issue at Ashland.  Not only is Henry Clay’s original house gone, but five generations of his family occupied the estate and much of the … More Messy Generational ‘Layers’ Complicate Museum’s Task

Henry Clay’s House

YOU ARE HERE -> 1805-1815 Early in 1805 Henry Clay contracted with Lexington builder John Fisher for the construction of a mansion at Clay’s Ashland property.  Architectural historians Patrick Snadon and Michael Fazio in The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe theorize that Latrobe may well have designed this initial structure for Clay. When the two-story Federal … More Henry Clay’s House

An 1856 Christmas at Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate

YOU ARE HERE -> CHRISTMAS 1856 While statesman Henry Clay had not been home at Ashland for many Christmases due to Congress being in session, once son James and his wife Susan Clay come to Ashland in the 1850s, we begin to get details of how Christmas was celebrated at the estate. James had rebuilt … More An 1856 Christmas at Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate