1. 4. Phoenix Park Site of the Home

Lincoln’s Lexington Walking Tour
Lincoln & African-American Sites from 1800 to 1860
Lexington played a unique role in the life of Abraham Lincoln. Because his wife grew up in Lexington, Lincoln had many family ties to the city. Lexington also was home to his mentor Henry Clay, who had a profound impact on his political career.
Furthermore, Lincoln’s Civil War counterpart and rival, Jefferson Davis, attended college at Transylvania University and was a friend of the Clay family. Lincoln visited Lexington on several occasions before becoming President. As he walked
throughout town, he would have passed homes and small retail shops. Some of these would have been homes and businesses of “free persons of color.” Americans of African descent lived along every street in Lexington at the time, and some who
were enslaved lived in homes adjacent to those of their owners. Lincoln more than likely saw them and perhaps engaged them in conversation, as was his habit.
1. Phoenix Park
Corner of Main and Limestone Streets
At this site John Postlethwait opened
his first tavern in 1797. It soon
developed into a popular stage coach
stop and hotel. The building burned
several times over the years but
was always rebuilt; consequently
the name was changed to Phoenix,
the mythical bird that rose from the
ashes. Enslaved and free persons
worked in the establishment. Henry
Britton, a free black, had a barber
shop in the basement as indicated in
the 1859 City Directory. The hotel
was demolished in 1982. The
Lexington Public Library moved to
the site in 1989. The park was named in 1990.
2. Site of the Home of
Cyrus Parker Jones
Corner of Main St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
At this location is a Kentucky Historical Highway Marker designatNow
ing the site of the Campbell-Rice
religious debates held in 1843 at the
Main Street Christian Church. Adjacent to it was a two story brick house
probably used as a rectory. Trustees sold the house to Cyrus Parker
Jones in 1857. Jones, enslaved to
the Parker family, was emancipated
by Elizabeth Parker, grandmother
of Mary Todd Lincoln, in her will
of December 24, 1849. Abraham
Lincoln, who helped settle her estate
after her death in January 1850, may
have met Jones. Jones is noted for
the preservation of the largest collection of funeral notices (667) of the
time period 1806 to 1886. The collection contains death notices of individuals from prominent families of Lexington and of at least seven free
blacks. Jones, prior to his death, donated the collection to James M. Duff,
a trustee of the Lexington Public Library. Jones died in 1887 at the age
of 96 and is buried in the oldest African-American cemetery in the city
(1869) located on Seventh Street.
3. First African Baptist
Corner of Short
and Deweese Streets
Trustees purchased the old Methodist Church building at this location
in 1834. The first half of the building now standing was constructed
in 1856; an addition was added in
1926. This church was organized in
1790 by Peter Durrette who remained its pastor until his death in
1823. The church reportedly had up
to 1,800 members by the 1850s. It
was originally known as the African Church when admitted to the Baptist
Association in 1824.
4. Site of the Home
of London Ferrell
6. Site of Second
9. Old Morrison
Presbyterian Church 301 West Third Street
This block is the approximate location of the home of London FerNow
rell. A native of Virginia, he was
a free black minister ordained by
the white Baptist Church in 1821.
Ferrell, who migrated to Lexington
in 1812, co-pastored the African
Church until 1823 at which time he
became the pastor. In August 1835,
Ferrell officiated at the ceremony
uniting Jane Wales and Lewis Sanders at the Todd home (now the Mary
Todd Lincoln House). Understanding the conditions of slavery, Ferrell
often pronounced couples married
until parted by “death or distance.”
Because Kentucky law did not recognize slave marriages, the Sanders’ marriage was not legally recognized until June 1871. Family stories
identify Jane Sanders as the Todd family housekeeper. Ferrell remained in
Lexington during the cholera epidemic and comforted the sick and administered last rites to those who had died regardless of race and religious
association. He was buried in October 1854 in the Old Episcopal Burying
Grounds, and is the only African American to be buried there. The Kentucky Statesman reported that the funeral of London Ferrell included “70
carriages, besides lengthy procession of people walking four abreast, and
60 on horseback … Over 4,000 present at grave services.”
The original church building dedicated July 30, 1815, was where Mary
Todd Lincoln’s family attended
services. It was often called
“McChord’s Church” in memory
of its first pastor, the Rev. James
McChord, who died in 1820. The
City Directory of 1838-1839 noted
that his “bones rest beneath the
church.” Services were held at
11 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays and
there was a weekly lecture at 7 p.m.
on Thursdays. Lincoln and his wife
may have attended services on this site during their visit to Lexington in
the fall of 1847.
Short Street between Esplanade and Deweese Streets
5. The Public Square
Cheapside between Main and Short Streets
This area was set aside in the 1780 plat of the town as a public square.
Courthouses of Lexington have stood here since 1788. The present edifice
is the fifth courthouse, the fourth on this site. The City Directory boasted
that the Courthouse Square was enclosed with “beautiful iron railings
and ornamented with delightful shrubbery.” It is ironic that the Directory
makes no mention of the Slave Auction Block where enslaved African
Americans were sold. In 1833, Kentucky legislators passed a nonimportation act which prohibited slaves from being brought into the state.
But they could be sold within the state, or sold outside it. By the 1840s,
Lexington had become the center of slave trading in Kentucky.
Dealers Pullum, Robards and others regularly advertised to purchase and
sell slaves and had offices and “slave jails” located on Main Street, Short
Street, and Broadway. Slaves were also sold at the square for the settlement of estates and debts. Slaves of Robert S. Todd, Mary Todd Lincoln’s
father, were sold to settle his estate. The square also contained a Whipping
Post for punishment of those who violated rules and regulations
established by the Town Council. Cheapside, now a public park, was
Lexington’s marketplace throughout the 1800s and into the mid-1900s
and named for its counterpart in London, England.
180 Market Street
7. Ridgely House/
Ward’s Academy
190 Market Street
Built about 1794 by Dr. Frederick
Ridgely, this is the oldest home
around Gratz Park. It was one of
the locations for the Shelby Female
Institute known as Ward’s Academy.
The school was founded in 1827
by Episcopal minister Rev. John
Ward. Mary Todd Lincoln began her
education at this school, graduating
in 1831. She continued her education
for four more years at Mentelle’s
Academy, located near Ashland, the
Henry Clay Estate. Tuition at Ward’s
was about $44 per year. French
lessons were extra. Ward’s Academy later moved to Mill Street.
8. Bodley-Bullock
200 Market Street
A former Indian fighter and lawyer,
General Thomas Bodley purchased
this property in 1814 for $10,000.
Robert Smith Todd, father of Mary
Todd Lincoln, apprenticed law in
the office of Thomas Bodley before
being admitted to the Kentucky Bar
in 1811. During the Civil War, this
house was headquarters for Union
troops and they printed their
newspaper, The Mail Bag, here.
Also of Note:
The Lexington History Center in the Old County Courthouse is home
to four unique museums: Lexington History Museum, Isaac Scott
Hathaway Museum, Lexington Public Safety Museum and the
Kentucky Renaissance Pharmacy Museum.
Wilson Family Photographic Collection, University of Kentucky
Transylvania’s second administration building was built between
1830 and 1834 to replace an earlier
main building that burned. Architect Gideon Shyrock, who designed
the building, also designed the 1830
state capitol in Frankfort. His father
Mathias Shyrock was the architect
of the Mary Todd Lincoln house on
Main Street. During the Civil War,
Federal troops used Old Morrison
as a hospital. Transylvania, founded
in 1780, is the oldest institution of
higher education in Kentucky.
10.The Hunt
Morgan House
201 North Mill Street
Built about 1814 by Kentucky’s
first millionaire, John Wesley
Hunt. Grandson John Hunt Morgan became a Confederate general
and led raids into Kentucky during
the Civil War. According to local
legend, Gen. Morgan once rode his
horse through the front steps of the
house, paused in the hall to kiss his
mother, then galloped out the back
door—with Union troops in hot
11. Henry Clay’s
Law Office
176 North Mill Street
Erected 1803-04, this is the only
office standing used by Henry Clay;
he occupied it from 1804 until circa
1810. He lived across the street at
the time in a house built for him
by his father-in-law, Thomas Hart.
Henry Clay, a lawyer and politician, ran for president three times
and earned the moniker “The Great
Compromiser.” Clay was a founding
member of the American Colonization Society (1816), a movement
to relocate free blacks to Liberia, a
colony on the coast of West Africa.
Clay owned up to fifty slaves at one time. Noteworthy were Charlotte
and Aaron Dupuy. Deeds indicate that Clay emancipated Charlotte and
her daughter Mary Ann in 1840 and her son Charles in 1844. There is no
evidence that Clay ever emancipated Charlotte’s husband Aaron.
Also of Note:
If you wish to extend your tour, Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate is
located just one mile from downtown at 120 Sycamore Road. For
more information go to www.henryclay.org or call (859) 266-8581.
Bullock Photographic Collection, Special Collections,
Transylvania University Library.
Bullock Photographic Collection, Special Collections,
Transylvania University Library.
to Yvonne Giles, director of the Isaac Scott Hathaway Museum, and
Gwen Thompson, director of the Mary Todd Lincoln House, for
researching and compiling this tour and to Dr. James
Klotter, State Historian.
Many Thanks:
Lexington Public Library
This program was funded in part by the Kentucky Humanities Council, Inc. and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Kentucky
Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the Friends of the Lexington Public Library. “Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln’s Journey
to Emancipation” has been organized by the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American
History, NYC, in cooperation with the American Library Association Public Programs Office. This exhibition was made possible by major
grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, promoting excellence in the humanities, and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial
Commission, created by Congress and charged with planning the national celebration of Lincoln’s 200th birthday.
16 15
The Kentucky Reporter dated June 23, 1819, announced that the
Lexington Library would be opening “Saturday next on ground floor
of M. Giron ball room.” The Lexington Library, which was founded in
1796, has operated at numerous locations in downtown Lexington over
the years. By the late 1830s it had 7,000 volumes and “the privilege
of reading” could be obtained for $2 per annum. This rendered it the
“most cheaply accessible” library in the United States in addition to its
being “the largest and best selected in the western country.”
Wilson Family Photographic Collection,
University of Kentucky
Also of Note:
Clay Lancaster Collection, University of Kentucky
This Italianate-style brick house was
built in 1871 by a prominent banker.
It was an orphanage from 1907 to
1975. The Parker name refers to
Elizabeth Parker (Mary Todd Lincoln’s grandmother), who lived in an
earlier house at this address. Cyrus
Parker Jones (see site #2) was part
of this household before gaining his
511 West Short Street
16. Parker Place
Note: not to scale
The property was the Todd family residence from 1832 to 1849. Mary
Todd resided here from the ages of 13 to 21, before moving to Springfield,
Illinois, to live with a sister in 1839. There she met Abraham Lincoln and
they were married in November 1842. The Lincolns stayed at this home
during their 1847 visit to Lexington, en route to Washington, D.C., for
the start of Lincoln’s congressional term. Lincoln visited Lexington on
several other occasions after that, including to settle the estates of Mary’s
father Robert S. Todd and her grandmother Elizabeth Parker. Lincoln
would have had direct contact with the enslaved of both households.
(For more information go to www.mtlhouse.org or call (859) 233-9999.)
578 West Main Street
M. Mathurin Giron, a French immigrant, conducted a confectionary in
this vicinity after 1810, constructing this building in 1837. His ballroom
located above the confectionary was a center of entertainment in the
city and home to many cotillions, public parties, and dancing and music
classes. In 1825 Gen. Lafayette (aide to Gen. Washington and the man for
whom Fayette County is named) visited Lexington, and Giron honored
him with an elaborate tiered white cake. Young Mary Todd, a favorite customer, is said to have acquired Giron’s white cake recipe, which became
a favorite of Lincoln’s. According to the census records of 1820, Giron
owned one female slave. In 1915, the southern portion of Giron’s Confectionary was demolished with only half of the original building remaining.
18. Mary Todd
Lincoln House
= tour stop
= historical marker
125 North Mill Street
Mary Todd Lincoln was born on this site December 13, 1818, and lived
here until 1832 at which time the family moved to Main Street. The 1820
Census indicates that the Todd household include Mr. and Mrs. Todd, four
children under 10 years old and three female slaves. Eventually Mr. Todd
had 16 children from his two marriages. Of the 14 who lived to adulthood half were Confederate sympathizers and half Union. Four of Mary’s
brothers fought in the Confederate army. Two were killed in the Civil War.
After the original property was gutted by fire, masonry from the birthplace
was salvaged to build the red brick gatehouse of present-day Calvary
Cemetery. The current house was built after that time.
Barton Battaile Collection, Lexington Public Library.
Map of
13. Giron’s
509 West Short Street
Laura Clay Photographic Collection,
University of Kentucky
15. Site of Mary
Todd Lincoln
Presented by the Mary Todd Lincoln House,
Isaac Scott Hathaway Museum
and the Lexington Public Library.
Lincoln & African American Sites from 1800 to 1860
Lincoln’s Lexington
d Walking Tour d
The old Lexington Theatre occupied this site until July 1864 when the interior of the building was destroyed by fire. One of the more famous slave
dealers, Lewis C. Robards, purchased the property in 1851 and reportedly
used the stage to display his “choicest stock.” The property was mortgaged to John Hunt Morgan in 1855. Robards sold the property to another
company just before some customers who had been sold “inferior merchandise” sued him. The building was being utilized as a jail by the Union
Army during the Civil War when it burned. The brick and foundation
stone were sold and the lot eventually was purchased by trustees of First
Congregational Church (African American) in 1891. The church building
is still standing with modifications made in 2006 to accommodate the new
housing construction between Main and Short Streets.
514 West Short Street
This block is the approximate location of Cassius Clay’s printing office.
Cousin of Henry Clay, he came from one of the largest land- and slaveowning families in Kentucky. Clay was a fervent emancipationist who had
released about fifty of those enslaved to him in March 1844. He published
the first issue of his controversial newspaper The True American, on this
site on June 3, 1845. On August 8, 1845, a committee of local slave owners entered the building and removed the printing press. It was shipped to
Cincinnati where Clay continued to print. Clay later became Ambassador
to Russia during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.
Opened in January 1836, this is Lexington’s oldest surviving post office
building. The post office was open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every weekday and
8 to 9 a.m. on Sundays. Mail rates were based on distance and number
of pages. A letter that was three pages long and traveled over 400 miles
would have been a costly 75¢. Joseph Ficklin was the postmaster from
1822 to 1841 and again from 1843 to 1850. He is remembered for having
boarded Jefferson Davis at his home on High Street.
North Mill Street between Short and Main Streets
307 West Short Street
17. Site of Robard’s Slave Jail
Clay’s Printing
14. Post Office
12. Site of Cassius
Mary and Abraham Lincoln: Library of Congress. Cover photo: Clay Lancaster Slide Collection, University of Kentucky