Keene Family Estate

  • Domer, Dennis (PI)
  • Madsen, Andrew (CoI)
  • Rogers, Freddie (CoI)
  • White, Allison (Former CoI)

Grants and Contracts Details


The Keene Family Estate is a highly significant historic site in Kentucky with the potential to yield important architectural, archaeological, botanical, and other information that is part of the Keeneland story. While the site is included as a contributing historic resource in the West Fayette County Rural Historic District National Register Nomination (Site FA-336, figure 1), no intensive surveyor site specific analysis about it was conducted as part of that nomination. An initial site survey identified many historic resources that include a main residence, stone fence, garage, outbuilding, cemetery, and tenant house (figure 2). Each resource appears to be related in some way to the Keene family. In addition, several sub-surface historic resources are likely to exist such as outbuilding footprints, slave quarter footprints, privy, summer kitchen, or other domestic and agricultural buildings and artifacts associated with rural life in Kentucky. Another contributing historic feature is the landscape ofthe 14-acre site. It reveals unique characteristics associated with traditional and nontraditional aspects of rural landscape design, illuminating the genteel nature of Keene family life. Together these resources represent a rich legacy from the Keene family, that includes aspects of Fayette County's gentry class with direct links to post Revolutionary War zeal. Subsequent Keene family members contributed to the formation of Lexington's sociocultural heritage through the 19thand 20thcenturies. As an elite ante-bellum family, the Keene's adopted the cultural model of Virginia's aristocracy. Large land holdings, possession of enslaved African Americans, and a love for horse racing were factors in their status. Horse racing is part of Kentucky's collective identity, and Keeneland is central to that identity. Remnants of the Keene family past are present in various forms at the estate site today. The focus of this project is to carefully and systematIca~ly retrace that past through the recovery, examination, interpretation, and doc~entatlOn of the resources that remain. While some of those resources are present at the sIte, others are embedded in archival repositories throughout the state. Research will be conducted on all aspects of the primary archival and material artifacts that will inform us of the Keene family in a way that has never been done before. The end result will be a biography of the Keene Family and the architectural hist?ry of the family's buildings and their interiors, a history of the landscape and natural envIronment, and an archaeological history of the 14-acre site. All of this work will be reviewed in the context of future uses for the site. The research will use a multidisciplinary approach that takes into account the evolutionary emergence of the architectural and interior design components. That information will be analyzed and compared to the archaeological record, thus revealing a concise chronology of the day-today life of one of Kentucky's most noted families. All information will be compiled and presented as a tool that will serve to guide the Keeneland Association in future decisions about adaptive reuse strategies, preservation planning, the overall treatment of the site, and how to make the site accessible to different publics. The Keene Family Estate is so rich and complete that any study of it needs to be done in steps or phases so that information from one phase guides how the next phase Keene Family Property (FA-336) ,. Residence 2. Family Cemetery 3. Stone garage 4. Tenant house 5. Green houses 6. Stone fence ---5 --- . --~ ~0 ( FA-337) (FA-33S) Versailles Road Site Plan and Inventory Overview will be approached. This proposal focuses only on Phase I of a larger, long-term research project. One of the goals of the project is to contribute to the development of a long-term relationship between Keeneland and the University of Kentucky through the education of students who, by working on the Keene Estate will learn about Kentucky, Keeneland, and the equine landscape in its many dimensions. Through this research project students and their faculty mentors will help develop ways of disseminating the information they discover to Keeneland's publics. This study and learning at Keeneland fits into a long-term research agenda already underway at the Center for Historic Architecture and Preservation, which is to document, study, and publish the equine landscape of Kentucky.
Effective start/end date9/8/036/30/05


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