Changes coming to the Lexington History Museum

In the quarterly print edition of The Bluegrass Historian this month, a major change was announced concerning new admissions procedures at the Lexington History Museum. As of September 25, 2010, all visitors will be charged an admission fee. At the June board of trustees meeting, members voted to approve the admission charge in light of the museum’s budget. After the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, the admission policy will change again to offer free admission to Fayette County residents.

The admission changes also bring about changes in entering and exiting the Old Fayette County Courhouse which houses the Lexington History Museum. As of September 25, point of entry will be the Short Street entrance. The Main Street entrance will be permanently closed and signage will be placed accordingly.

After the Games close on October 10, Fayette County residents will be admitted at no charge upon presenting proof of residence (driver’s license, student ID, check, library card, etc.) The change in policy is because of projected budget deficits, but still remains in keeping with the spirit of Dr. Thomas D. Clark’s vision that local residents should not have to pay to learn about their heritage. The decision to charge admission to non-residents is supported by Dr. Clark’s widow.

Museum President and CEO had this to say about the impending changes:

The Museum receives no public operating funds, although the building is maintained at a minimum by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. The Museum operating expenses are totally dependent on private donations, such as the impending admissions costs.

The cost will be $5 for Adults and Children over 12, $3 for Children 6-11. Children 5 and under will be free. Visa, MasterCard and American Express credit cards will be accepted at both the admissions desk and in the gift shop. The three other History Center museums Isaac Scott Hathaway Museum, Pharmacy Museum and Public Safety Museum will remain free to the public.

For questions regarding these changes, please contact Museum President and CEO Jamie Millard by email jamie@lexingtonhistorymuseum.org or by phone (859) 254-0530.

Located at 215 W. Main St in Downtown Lexington, KY, the Lexington History Museum is open seven days a week 12-4 with extended hours on Saturday 10-4. During the World Equestrian Games, the hours will be extended to fit with the Spotlight Lexington events downtown. The new hours will be Sunday through Friday 10-6 with hours of 10-6 on Saturday. Following the close of the games, the museum will revert to its Friday through Monday schedule.

The Lexington History Museum engages all people in discovery and interpretation of the history of Lexington, KY and the Bluegrass region.

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This Day in History — September 8

This day in history, September 8, 1867,John LaRue Helm, Kentucky governor 1850-51 and 1867 passed away just five days after taking the oath of office at his bedside. Born near Elizabethtown on July 4, 1802, e served as president of Louisville and Nashville Railroad and worked in his 1867 campaign to end post-Civil War bitterness and proscriptions against ex-Confederates.

Though he favored Kentucky’s neutrality during the Civil War, he was considered to be a Southern sympathizer. During his terms as Lt. Governor, Governor (18th and 24th) and in the Senate, he favored state aid for economic development, election reforms to curb irregularities and violence, higher salaries to attract better judges, and prohibition of the carrying of concealed deadly weapons.

He proposed that LaRue County be so-named for his grandfather.

“Hands on History” Summer Day Camp mixes fun and learning!

The school year is drawing to a close and that means it is time to figure out what to do with the kids this summer. The Lexington History Museum is sponsoring 3 week-long summer day camp sessions for children of all ages. The camp mixes hands-on activities, walking tour of Lexington, trips to other historic sites and behind the scenes fun at the museum. Kids will play Native American games, explore life as a Pioneer, find out how Lexington was divided during the Civil War and create their own exhibit!

Three sessions will be held daily from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.: June 21- 25
July 05 – 09
July 12 – 16

Ages listed on the promotional material specify children 6 – 10, but we welcome children of all ages with a desire to learn about the history of Kentucky and Lexington!

Topics for the camp include: Native Americans in Kentucky, Lexington’s Pioneer Heritage, Abraham Lincoln and His Wife’s Hometown, Civil War Lexington, and Behind the Scenes of the Lexington History Museum.

Important Information about the Camp:

  • Each camp session costs $183 per camper
  • Cost includes all materials and any outside attraction admission charges.
  • Lunch is not included in the camp fee. (Campers should bring a bagged lunch printed with his/her name and a soft drink. There is access to a refrigerator to keep lunches cool.
  • Camps sessions are Monday – Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Campers are expected to be dropped off and picked up on time.
  • Late pick up at 5 p.m. is available for $25 per camper, per session.
  • Activities are in the Museum Center building, on the Court Square, or within short walking distance of the Museum

Payment is due the Monday before the desired session begins. Financial assistance is available for those in need.

Stop by the museum for a registration form or email lexhistorymuseum@yahoo.com for a pdf version!

Lexington History Museum to participate in BGT Sunday Stroll

Sundays are generally a great day to get out and take a walk around Lexington. Today is no exception as the Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation sponsors a “Sunday Stroll” with 8 open historic sites. Put on your walking shoes and head to Gratz Park where the stroll will begin. Refreshments and a music ensemble are to be found at the Bodley-Bullock House at 200 Market St. Just across Gratz Park, the Hunt Morgan House will be open as well.

The Sunday Stroll is a free way to get out and see important historic sites in Lexington. While the Lexington History Museum is always free, we will be giving a 10% Discount in the Court Square Trader Museum store during the event. Visitors must mention the Sunday Stroll to receive the discount.

The evening culminates at Christ Church Cathedral for an organ concert and Evensong beginning at 4:30. The Lexington History Museum will be open until its normal time of 4 p.m. so be sure to check it out!

Open sites include:

1.  Hunt Morgan House & garden  (Blue Grass Trust)
201 North Mill St.

2.  Old Morrison, Transylvania University; Patterson Cabin is on the grounds
West Third St.

3.  Bodley Bullock house & garden (Lexington Junior League)
200 Market St.

4.  Christ Church Cathedral, Art Gallery & Garden;  Organ Concert & Evensong
166 Market St.

5.  Henry Clay Law Office (The Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship)
176 North Mill St.

6.  First Presbyterian Church
174 North Mill St.

7.  Lexington History Museum (Old Fayette County Courthouse)
215 West Main St. (Main at Upper; open ’till 4 PM)

Additionally, Pope Villa, 326 Grosvener Ave., a restoration in progress by the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation will be open for free tours conducted by historic preservation specialists.

Lexington’s Most Colorful Characters

CHEVY CHASER HISTORY
Lexington’s Most Colorful Characters
by Jamie Millard
March 31, 2010

With the death of Louis “Shoeshine” Cobb this past November, Lexington lost its latest in a string of colorful characters that stretches unbroken to the community’s founding days in the late 1700s. Certainly, anyone who takes on a wildcat (of the four-footed kind) with his bare hands must be quite a character. Thus, one John McKinney qualifies as the town’s first such type (and its first school teacher), as in early June 1783 he was attacked by a strangely behaving cat inside the one-room schoolhouse on the site of today’s Lexington History Museum. As the cat’s claws dug into his torso, its teeth deep in his shoulder, the commotion from the fight convinced the other settlers of an American Indian attack. Finally, McKinney got the upper hand and choked the cat to death. After being bandaged, McKinney called his class to order and resumed their instruction for the day. Understandably, shortly thereafter, McKinney left teaching to take up farming in Bourbon County, helped write the state’s first constitution, and was elected to the first legislature.

William “King” Solomon is also counted among the town’s earliest characters. Reputedly the scion of a wealthy Virginia family, he migrated to Lexington and took up residence – as the town drunk. One day, while inebriated, he climbed a tree, only to fall and land on a constable. Promptly arrested, Solomon was auctioned to pay his fine and debts. Bought for the sum of 50 cents by a free black woman known as Aunt Charlotte (for which the East End’s Charlotte Court is named), he was essentially enslaved – a white man to a black woman. Solomon’s lasting fame stems from the 1833 cholera epidemic. Because he drank whiskey, not water (or so the story goes), he was impervious to the water-born germs in polluted wells. As even the grave diggers fled for safe haven, Solomon calmly stayed behind to bury the dead at the Old Episcopal Burying Ground on Third Street at today’s Elm Tree Lane. Upon his death in 1854, Solomon was buried in the new Lexington Cemetery, and a statue declaring him a “hero” was erected at the gravesite. (Footnote to history: Solomon was not the only person digging graves. Two others worked with him: London Ferrell, a free black who is the only non-white buried in that graveyard, and a young U.S. Army Lieutenant Jefferson I. Davis, graduate of Transylvania University and later president of the Confederacy.)

After the War Between the States, former soldiers on both sides returned to their communities to live out their lives with memories of heroic wartime adventures. For years, Col. O.F. Redd, CSA, celebrated his exploits by leading the town’s many parades high on his cavalry steed. Sometimes, he would swoop a watching youngster up on his saddle where she had a bird’s eye view of the parade route. At the terminus of the parade, he would always remove his hat with a grand gesture, stand in the stirrups, and let out a blood-curdling Rebel Yell.

Of course, regular readers of the Chevy Chaser and its sister publications are familiar with the visage, if not the story, of the dog known as Smiley Pete. For 11 years, Pete, a mixed breed with an apparently fixed grin, was a fixture at the corner of Main and Lime, holding court outside Hart’s Drugstore. Nearby merchants saw to his nutritional needs.When the regular rabies outbreak occurred, Smiley Pete took up residence at Del-Tor Veterinary until the crisis passed. In 1952, Pete sired his only documented litter. But his loose living caught up with him, and he died on June 17, 1957. A plaque is in the sidewalk at “his” corner, and he is buried near the old Fairlawn mansion on North Broadway, where the marker reads: “Pete/Our Dog/A Friend to All/A Friend of All.”

Lexington’s colorful characters have been such to prompt newspaper editorials. The Lexington Leader of April 5, 1965, pays tribute to no less than five individuals whose antics entertained the community, if not the police department. Lost John wore a top hat and tails, strolling around downtown and the UK campus, playing the harmonica. Evidently, he came into a few hundred dollars, which he splurged on a motor scooter, extending the speed and range of his wanderings. Eddie Young was banned from Main Street after he suggested how an inquiring woman could “catch a streetcar.” Pete McGarvey, whose residence was listed as the Workhouse on Bolivar Street, spent his non-jail time preaching to whomever would listen from his perch on Cheapside “while he got himself in shape to go back to jail.” Walkin’ Munn Wilson was a perennial candidate for political office who would “preach politics and brimstone” until led away by the police. And there was a certain Mrs. Littleton who took Lexington society by storm – until a police detective recognized her as a former resident of The Hill (the city’s red light district).

No accounting of Lexington’s colorful characters would be complete without mention of James “Sweet Evening Breeze” Herndon. Known as “Sweet Evening” or just “Sweets” (and rarely called or even known by his given name), Herndon was born in 1889 in Scott County. Allegedly, the youngest of eight children was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital for treatment of an eye injury – and abandoned. Miss Lake Johnson, the administrator, took a liking to him and provided living space at the hospital. He paid for his room by running errands for the hospital and playing ukulele for patients. In time, he trained as an orderly, and earned a reputation for his skills of tenderly turning the bedridden. He also earned a reputation as the city’s first cross-dresser. Many a Saturday evening found Sweets dressed in feminine finery, wearing makeup and sporting a handbag while he strolled downtown streets. Many legendary tales are told about Sweets, perhaps the most memorable being when he was lowered in a basket from the Woodland Auditorium ceiling to perform the “Passion Dance of the Bongo Bongoes.” Sweets died Dec. 16, 1983, and is said to have donated a hefty sum to Pleasant Green Baptist Church, of which he was a longtime member.

Now that “Shoeshine” has joined the pantheon of Lexington’s colorful characters, who stands ready to take up the mantel?

The Lexington History Museum is currently developing an exhibit based on the lives of many of these colorful characters. We would like your input. If you feel that we have omitted any treaured Lexington character, please letus know.

Museum to hold volunteer orientation Saturday, April 10 at 2 p.m.

Do you enjoy helping people? Do you like history? The Lexington History Museum is looking for talented, helpful individuals to become volunteers. The museum opened its doors free to the public in October 2003 and in 2009, the yearly visitor totals topped 10,000. Located in the Old Fayette County Courthouse at 215 W Main St, the Lexington History Museum is the city’s only free historic site. To fulfill Thomas D. Clark’s vision of a free museum in Lexington, we rely on volunteers who are willing to assist visitors. The Lexington History Museum engages all people in the discovery and interpretation of the history of Lexington and the Bluegrass.

Beginning March 29, the museum will be open seven days a week from 12 p.m. until 2 p.m. with extended hours on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Volunteers are needed to staff the reception desk on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for shifts 12-2 and 2-4. They may also be called upon to fill in for volunteers on other open days. Volunteers are expected to learn about the exhibits at the museum and familiarize themselves with the other three museums in the building. They may be called upon for special events and to lead guided tours if needed. All required materials will be provided, such as a gift shop procedure tutorial and exhibit information.

During the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, volunteers will be needed to staff the front desk and lead tours during special extended hours. The hosting position is perfect for a college student who is looking to fulfill community service hours or anyone who is looking to give back to their community. There are other opportunities to volunteer such as research and assistance with the museum’s social media programs. Volunteers meet fellow Lexingtonians and visitors to Lexington, gain a unique knowledge of Lexington and the Bluegrass region while promoting and securing Lexington’s only free historical site.

Please join us for a Volunteer Orientation on Saturday, April 10 at 2 p.m. and learn more about the museum. There will be an opportunity to meet museum staff members and become familiar with exhibits. Shift sign-up and training will be provided for all prospective volunteers.

Come help us record and preserve our city’s history. For more information, contact Debra Watkins, Museum Manager, by calling 859-254-0530 or emailing debra@lexingtonhistorymuseum.org. Find us on the web at www.lexingtonhistorymuseum.org, www.facebook.com/lexhistory, www.twitter.com/lexhistory. If you have a question, comment, or concern, feel free to leave a comment on this post. Can’t make it to the orientation? Let us know if you are interested in taking one of the volunteer shifts and we can schedule a private training!

Lexington History Museum to be open seven days a week

Spring Break is coming and to provide activities for families during this week, the Lexington History Museum will be open seven days a week beginning Friday, March 26. Open 12-4 with extended hours on Saturday (10-4) the museum will continue to be open until November 1. School breaks are a perfect time to come explore the museum and there will be plenty of activities, including our Playdate with History room and family areas within Lincoln and His Wife’s Hometown.

We will be opening new exhibits including A Salute to the World Equestrian Games and Lexington in the Civil War in the coming months.

For more information, email info@lexingtonhistorymuseum.org, leave a comment on this post, or call 859-254-0530.