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Originally established in 1775 the town of Lexington, Kentucky grew quickly into a national cultural center amongst the rolling green hills of the Bluegrass Region. Nicknamed the “Athens of the West,” Lexington and the surrounding area became a leader in higher education, visual arts, architecture, and music, and the center of the horse breeding and racing industries. The national impact of the Bluegrass was further confirmed by prominent Kentucky figures such as Henry Clay and John C. Breckinridge.

Bluegrass Renaissance chronicles Lexington’s development as one of the most important educational and cultural centers in America during the first half of the nineteenth century. Editors Daniel Rowland and James C. Klotter gather leading scholars to examine the successes and failures of Central Kentuckians from statehood to the death of Henry Clay, in an investigation of the area’s cultural and economic development and national influence. Bluegrass Renaissance is an interdisciplinary study of the evolution of Lexington’s status as antebellum Kentucky’s cultural metropolis.

Daniel Rowland is associate professor of history at the University of Kentucky and has published numerous articles on art, architecture, and political culture in early modern Russia as well as contributing to the Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History.

James C. Klotter is professor of history at Georgetown College and the State Historian of Kentucky. He is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including A Concise History of Kentucky and A New History of Kentucky.

"This excellent collection of essays seeks to address an important, but understudied, time priod in Kentucky history during which Lexington and its surrounding areas were at their zenith both culturally and economically. This is a highly readable volume that should appeal to any person interested in the state's history, that should become the standard 'go-to' text on this era in Kentucky for many years to come."--Anne Marshall, author of Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State

The essays well testify to the breadth and high quality of work being undertaken on early Kentucky. -- Matthew G. Schoenbachler, author of Murder and Madness: The Myth of the Kentucky Tragedy

Stephen Aron is professor of history at UCLA and chair of the Institute for the Study of the American West at the Autry National Center. He is the author of How the West Was Lost: The Transformation of Kentucky from Daniel Boone to Henry Clay (1996) and American Confluence: The Missouri Frontier from Borderland to Border State (2006) and co-author of Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World from the Beginnings of Humankind to the Present (2011, 3d edition). Shearer Davis Bowman received his Ph. D. at the University of California at Berkeley and subsequently taught at Hampden-Sydney College, the University of Texas at Austin, Berea College, and the University of Kentucky before his death in 2009. He authored two well-received comparative studies, Masters and Lords: Mid-19th Century US Planters and Prussian Junkers (1993) and At the Precipice: Americans North and South During the Secession Crisis (2010), as well as numerous articles and reviews. Matthew F. Clarke is a Master’s candidate in Architecture and Urban Policy at Princeton University. His senior thesis as a Gaines Fellow at the University of Kentucky, Voices of Home in Bluegrass-Aspendale (2007), traced the shifting role of the Bluegrass-Aspendale housing project in Lexington’s social fabric. Currently he is researching the economic development of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and the regional infrastructure of New Jersey. Mollie Eblen is the public relations associate at Transylvania University in Lexington. She holds degrees in English and library science from the University of Kentucky. Tom Eblen is a columnist and former managing editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader. A Lexington native, he previously was a writer and editor for the Associated Press and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Randolph Hollingsworth is Assistant Professor in the Office of Undergraduate Education at the University of Kentucky. She also serves as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the History Department, and is a faculty affiliate with Gender and Women’s Studies at U.K. While much of her research has focused on conservative thought and U.S. Women’s history in the South, her most recent work has focused on contemporary issues regarding open educational resources and Kentucky women’s history in the civil rights era. She is currently working on manuscript on the history of women in Kentucky. James C. Klotter, the State Historian of Kentucky and Professor of History at Georgetown College, is the author or editor of some dozen and a half books. They include The Breckinridges of Kentucky (1986) and Kentucky Justice, Southern Honor, and American Manhood, Southern Biography Series (2003). Previously he served as the Executive Director of the Kentucky Historical Society. Nikos Pappas of Lexington, Ky., has a wide range of musical interests both as a performer and as a scholar. A Ph.D. candidate at the University of Kentucky, he has been involved in documentary film scores, the creation of a traditional music archive, and work for presidential libraries and projects, including James Monroe and Abraham Lincoln. His research has garnered awards from the American Musicological Society, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the American Bibliographic Society. Estill Curtis Pennington has served in curatorial capacities for the Archives of American Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Morris Museum of Art. His publications include Kentucky: The Master Painters from the Frontier Era to the Great Depression and Lessons in Likeness: Portrait Painters in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley, 1802-1920 (2011). Gerald L. Smith is associate professor of history at the University of Kentucky. He is the author of A Black Educator in the Segregated South: Kentucky's Rufus B. Atwood (1988). He is currently working on a general history of African Americans in Kentucky and serving as the general co-edtior of the Kentucky African American enycyclopedia. Patrick Snadon is an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture and Interior Design at the University of Cincinnati. He has authored and coauthored articles and books on American architecture and interiors, including The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe (2006, with Michael Fazio), which received the 2008 Hitchcock Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. He has engaged in historic preservation work for many years, including assisting in the restorations of two Latrobe buildings, the Pope Villa in Lexington, and Decatur House in Washington, D.C. He is currently researching Modernism in Cincinnati and has coauthored a guidebook, 50 from the 50s: Modern Architecture and Interiors in Cincinnati (2008). John R. Thelin is a Professor at the University of Kentucky. He is author of A History of American Higher Education (2004). In 2005, John teamed up with Sharon Thelin on a Kenucky Humanities Council project dealing with “Town and Gown in Kentucky: Campus and Community in the Commonwealth.” He is the co-author, with Amy E. Wells, of “Universities of the South” in The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Maryjean Wall, Ph.D., is author of How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders (2010). She was the longtime horse racing writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader and teaches American history at the university level. She has won multiple awards for her writing. Mark Wetherington was born in Tifton, Georgia. Earning his Ph.D. in history in 1985 at the University of Tennessee, he served as director of the East Tennessee Historical Society, the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston, and presently is director of The Filson Historical Society, Louisville, Kentucky. His first book The New South Comes to Wiregrass Georgia, 1860-1910 (1994) won the American Historical Association’s Herbert Feis book award in 1995. His second book Plain Folk’s Fight: The Civil War and Reconstruction in Piney Woods Georgia appeared in 2005. He has also served as an adjunct history professor at the University of Tennessee and the University of Louisville.

These excellent essays now comprise the most comprehensive view of Lexington’s golden age in all its many facets while extorting the individuals who molded it into something great. In the end one understands why Lexington had a Latrobe house—the most sophisticated house designed in federal America—for it symbolized an earned preeminence. In time its preeminence faded but in these essays Lexington continues to teach us by revealing its strengths and weaknesses its success and failures which speak to our own. -- John E. Kleber, editor of The Kentucky Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Louisville

Winner of the Clay Lancaster Heritage Education Award given by the Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation

Recipient of Clay Lancaster Herritage Education Award for their service in researching and disseminating information about Central Kentucky. -- Lexington Herald-Leader

Taken as a whole, the collection is a treasure trove of references for the student of Kentucky history, and it introduces new fields of research and reflection. It is a great addition to the historiography and a welcome complement to earlier edited collections published by the University Press of Kentucky. -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

[. . .] The well-crafted and well-researched essays illuminate the unique culture that flourished in the Central Bluegrass region during the antebellum era. Individuals who research and teach Kentucky history in the state’s universities and public schools will find in these chapters a wealth of information and insight to share with their classes. Bluegrass Renaissance is an exemplary book, a credit to its publisher. The essays within its covers add to our understanding of the antebellum cultural milieu that made the Bluegrass frontier an exciting and unique region. -- Indiana Magazine of History

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Lexington, Kentucky, History


United States History

Bluegrass Renaissance: The History and Culture of Central Kentucky, 1792-1852
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