Beautiful Architecture and Rich History of Transylvania Revealed from Simple Marker

Marker affixed to a Stone at Gratz Park - Lexington, Ky.
In the lawn of Gratz Park, the children of James Lane Allen play while nearby a memorial plaque honors:
Transylvania
Pioneer College of the West
Founded by Legislature of Virginia - 1780
Moved to this Site - 1793
Erected by Bryan Station Chapter N.S.D.A.R. - 1931

To the uninitiated, the marker may seem out of place surrounded by the historic homes of Gratz Park while the stately Morrison Hall of Transylvania serves as the icon of the school that spreads north from Third Street. But it is here in Gratz Park that Transylvania flourished and with it the seat of knowledge that made Lexington the Athens of the West. 

The Main Building of Transylvania was "the crowning architectural jewel of this square." It was designed by architect Matthew Kennedy and evidence of its style appears on an "elevation and first-floor plan rendering for the project, signed and dated '18th April 1816'."

Of the Main Building, Clay Lancaster wrote in in his Vestiges of the Venerable City,
a building with a wide pedimented central motif, with the first story given a basement treatment and te second and third stories laced by four engaged columns and two pilasters. Lower openings are arched, and a host of chimneys rises from the long, plain roof with end gable. ... Its center pavilion was pedimented, it contained a fan window in the tympanum, a balustrade surmounted the cornice to the hipped roof elsewhere, and an elaborate cupola climaxed the composition. The topmost elements - the lantern with its colonnettes, finial urns, and bulbous roof and vane, and the balustrade - were Georgian Baroque in the manner of Sir Christopher Wren and considerably more old-fashioned than the Classic deliniation would have been; but together they comprised a more pleading form.
Restoration sketch of Gratz Park by Clay Lancaster, Vestiges of the Venerable City.
A fire in May of 1829 marked the end of the Main Building and only its east dependency (a supporting structure) remains today as it serves as the home of the Blue Grass Trust. When Transylvania was reconstituted and the work of the school continued, it did so on the north side of Third Street with construction of Old Morrison beginning in 1831.

Our marker also suggests and earlier home for Transylvania with it having been formed in 1780 by the Virginia Legislature and moving to the site thirteen years later. As has been noted here before, the Transylvania Academy was first established in Danville. One of its first Transy trustees was Willis Green, whose Danville home is a historic gem currently for sale by a consortium of preservation-minded organizations.

A lot of history hidden on that little marker affixed to a stone in Gratz Park...
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