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Ekstrom Library

Government Resources: Arts: Architecture

Kentucky Architecture

The earliest building designers of Kentucky were not professionally trained architects but were amateur builder-architects or builder-designers. Most of the builders were house joiners, carpenters, and bricklayers who conveyed the traditions of their immediate environment. By the late 1700s, Matthew Kennedy came to Kentucky from Virginia and Mathias Shryock came from Maryland, bringing with them traditional building skills from their home regions.

In addition to their traditional building methods, these builder-designers relied on regional materials. Stone was the predominant building material because of the availability of limestone and marble, a metamorphosed limestone. Stone was used in the foundations of early log cabins and for simple and complex building forms because it was durable, flexible, and could be used for architectural ornamentation. Kentucky clay provided a good quality of brick that could be fired into a hard brick. John Bob's was a local brickyard in Lexington in 1791.

Three distinct architectural styles emerged in Kentucky in the first half of the 19th century. Gradually replacing the Federal style during the first quarter of the 19th century, Greek Revival becomes the new national style, ever present on public buildings such as churches, schools, and government buildings. Religious buildings became the prime examples of the Gothic Revival style by 1830, supported by clergymen as economical to build and excellent examples of ecclesiastical architecture reaching to the heavens. Gothic Revival was also an exuberant, romantic design that promoted country living and connecting to the land through landscaping and horticulture. While the Renaissance Revival style was beginning in upstate New York by the 1840s, local builders chose the less formalized Italian villa style (Italianate) that related to the agrarian lifestyle of Kentucky.

Lexington, Kentucky: The Athens of the West

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