Everything You Didn’t Know About the Historic Round Barn-
From Civil War to Renowned Architect to Floral Artists to Bookies.
Located in the heart of Lexington, the Round Barn Stable of Memories is one of Lexington’s historic landmarks and architectural treasures. Built adjacent to the track in 1882, the four-story barn was designed as an exhibition hall then later used to house horses and tack for the races. After being restored as a museum, The Round Barn became a unique, historic location for special events. A stunning chandelier suspended through the center creates a warm, welcoming ambiance for special events.
The Stable of Memories, Inc. is the custodian non-profit organization dedicated to protect and preserve the “Round Barn,” the historic structure which has stood as the gateway to The Red Mile harness racing track since 1880.
The building was originally built through a $25,000 grant from the United States Congress, for damages Union troops caused to the old fairgrounds in Lexington during the Civil War. The KY Agricultural and Mechanical Fair Association used the grant money to purchase new land and then commissioned the state’s most prominent architect, John McMurtry, to design a floral exhibition hall.
Completed in 1882 at a cost of $5,000, the resulting structure was named Floral Hall and had a two-story rotunda in the center of the octagonal building. In 1883 an interior third level was added to house art exhibits. It was designed with its center open so judges could see all the exhibits on three levels and compare entries easily.
Four sides of the building featured doors and were set off with decorative woodwork popular during the Victorian era. The roof of the third floor was originally flat and encircled by a railing. In 1896 the distinctive cupola was added. Sometime between 1918 and 1944, the red brick building was painted white.
Although the building is constantly undergoing repairs to protect and preserve it, any changes since this time to the exterior appearance have been modest. Early on, Floral Hall was called into service for gambling. In the post-Civil War period, bookmaking in Lexington centered in its finest hotel, the Phoenix Hotel. By the 1880s however, criminal elements were entering the picture and forming “betting rings” around the country.
Known as one of the “grandest bookie enclosure” in the country was Floral Hall at Lexington’s Red Mile. Trotting horse races began at the Red Mile track in 1875; eventually the Kentucky Trotting Horse Breeders Association acquired the track and Floral Hall. Betting followed the races of course. When Lexington outlawed gambling inside the city limits in the late 1800s, the bookies had to leave the Phoenix and downtown hotels. Floral Hall, however, was just outside the city boundary; the track itself was not. The bookies moved their operations into Floral Hall and the betting pools for the fall trotting meet were held there.
In 1896, the grounds were purchased from the fair association by trotting horse enthusiasts and Floral Hall was used for stabling. Stalls were built on the first and second floors and the third floor housed the grooms, or the horses’ caretakers.
Immortal Hall of Fame trainer, Tom Berry, stabled horses there, including the 1930 Hambletonian and Kentucky Futurity winner, Hanover’s Bertha. Other great horses stabled there included Greyhound, Wing Commander, and Merrie Annabelle.
The “Round Barn” stands as the gateway to The Red Mile and is an iconic Lexington landmark. The Stable of Memories was incorporated in 1972 to preserve the building and is registered with the National Register of Historic Places and The Blue Grass Trust.
The annual Vision Awards are a time-honored tradition paying tribute to the best of the 18-county Bluegrass Region each year, related to improving quality of life and place, Bluegrass Tomorrow’s mission. The dinner event fundraiser is open to the public and tickets can be purchased using the link at the bottom of this email.
The Board of Directors of Bluegrass Tomorrow cordially invites you to a special evening where we will present our most distinguished Vision Awards honoring Sam Dick of WKYT with the Bluegrass Legacy Award, and Gloria Martin long-time land use planning advocate, chair of the LFUCG Rural Land Management Board and former LFUCG Council Member, with the prestigious Josephine Abercrombie Award.
The evening will include cocktails and a wonderful dinner, live music, a fabulous auction and more.
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
The Historic Round Barn
1200 Red Mile Road
Reception & Cocktails at 5:30 p.m.
Dinner at 7:00 p.m.
Business or Cocktail Attire
Table Sponsorship (8 guests) $1,000
Individual Tickets: $100
Individual Ticket & One Year Membership: $150
Presenting Sponsors (includes table of 8) – $1,500