Kentucky University mechanical arts building
1867 - The Woodlands and Ashland
Named for the towering ash trees growing there, Henry Clay’s Ashland was no ordinary home. Because of Clay’s prominence and the fact that he cherished and spoke often of his estate in Kentucky, Ashland became nationally known and an inseparable part of Clay’s public identity.
After the Civil War, Kentucky University took ownership of Henry Clay's Ashland and the adjoining Woodlands Estates.
Regent John B. Bowman believed that Kentucky University was to be permanently located there, so he made plans for the buildings and grounds to prepare them for University use. By 1867 Bowman had moved into Ashland as compensation for holding the position of Regent of the University, having refused a salary. In that same year, Bowman received a sizable donation from Pennsylvania lawnmower magnate C.Y.N. Yost in exchange for testing his new mower. This donation was used to build a mechanical arts building at the Woodlands (above) and at Ashland, classrooms, labs, and manufacturing facilities.
The extant buildings had proved adaptable for University use, although “many of them were in a poor state of preservation,” as Bowman remarked when the University had first settled there. He described what they had to work with: “Over these grounds there are scattered about thirty separate buildings, which are used for educational purposes, professors’ residences, dormitories, club houses, mechanical shops, etc.”
Kentucky University would operate at Ashland for 12 years until 1878 when a rift between the state and the Disciples of Christ Church, who jointly operated the University, would grow too deep to heal and the institution split.
The Disciples of Christ continued to operate Kentucky University on their original campus downtown returning to the original Transylvania name in the early 20th century.
The Woodlands was used by the college until its sale to the Woodlands Park Association in 1884. The A & M college moved to the old fair grounds and became the State College and, ultimately, the University of Kentucky.
Thirty years after Henry Clay’s death, after the ravages of time, war, and use by the state college had taken their toll on the 324-acre Ashland estate, granddaughter Anne Clay McDowell returned to the family’s hallowed grounds. She and Major McDowell transformed Ashland, providing Clay’s old estate its new public face. They believed that Ashland belonged to the public as a living memorial to Henry Clay.
(Hopkins, 1949 here)