walkLEX: Graham Cottage

Graham Cottage - Lexington, Ky.
Graham Cottage - Lexington, Ky.
In antebellum Kentucky, education was a priority for many. In Hustonville in 1854, James M. Hocker formed a Christian College for women. It was the first all-female college this side of the Appalachian Mountains. After the Civil War, he relocated his "Hocker College" to a six acre tract on the west side of North Broadway in Lexington [*]. There, he called upon another leader in the Stone-Campbell restoration movement, Robert Graham, to assume the presidency of the institution. The residence pictured above was constructed in that year, 1869, as the college president's home. Graham resigned in 1875 and, following a large donation, the college was renamed Hamilton College (I bet you can guess the donor's last name!?).

By 1889, Transylvania University had taken an interest in the small college near its own campus and, in 1903, Transy converted Hamilton College into its own junior college before dissolving the institution entirely in 1932. The main building of Hocker/Hamilton was an impressive four-story brick Italianate that was repurposed as a women's dormitory at Transy until the structure was demolished in 1962.

Today, the only remaining part of the Hocker/Hamilton College days is the Graham Cottage. Hardly a cottage, this stately home would serve as the home of four presidents of Transylvania University before the University began using the Cottage as an alumni house.

Speaking of alumni, one notable alumni of Hamilton College was Maurine Dallas Watkins, the scriptwriter who created the characters Roxie Hart and Velma Kelley for Chicago in 1926. Of course, the story was remade into a film in 1942 (with Ginger Rogers) and readapted as a musical (and a blockbuster film) in the past decade.

The Graham Cottage was described by Clay Lancaster as an "interesting antiquity" [*] and is one of three truly historic buildings standing on the campus of Transylvania University, the others being Old Morrison and the Patterson Cabin.

This post was republished on KyForward.com on June 8, 2011.