Henry Clay is best known as “The Great Compromiser, for his role as a statesman and as working to hold the United States together during the first half of the 19th century. He served as a Representative, a Senator, Secretary of State, and (failed) presidential candidate. He is known for many political accomplishments, including his role in encouraging the United States; participation in the War of 1812, his role in negotiating the Treaty of Ghent. He helped make the Speaker of the House the powerful position it is today. Henry Clay was a very successful lawyer, winning many cases and introducing legal precedents that are still cited today. As a farmer, Henry Clay became one of the most respected breeders and scientific farmers in the country, introducing Hereford Cattle to the United States. Henry Clay was also a horseman and lover of racing. His success as a breeder drew the attention and admiration of the best horsemen in the country, and the blood of his horses still runs in the best Thoroughbreds today. Find more detail on Henry Clay at www.henryclay.org
Henry Clay began purchasing the land, which he would develop into the Ashland plantation in 1804, and the main house was finished by 1809, and expanded in 1811-1812. Following Henry Clay’s death in 1852 the house passed to his son James Clay. Deteriorations in the house and foundation lead to demolition and rebuilding by 1857. The new house was rebuilt on the original foundation and largely following the original form, though with some updates. From 1866 to 1882 the house was owned by the new Kentucky University, used as lodging and museum space. It came back into the Clay family in 1882 under the ownership of Henry Clay’s granddaughter Anna Clay McDowell and her husband Henry Clay McDowell. Much of the plantation became residential developments in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1950 their daughter Nanette McDowell Bullock helped create the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation to preserve the house and grounds.