Lexington, KY Fayette County Court House Fire, May 1897



Lexington, Ky., May 14. -- Fire broke out in the attic of the court house here at 9:45 a.m., and in a few minutes the upper story and dome were in flames. Hart's statue, "Woman Triumphant" bought by Lexington women for $5,000 was in the rotunda. The court house was completely burned, and in an hour nothing remained but walls. Hart's beautiful masterpiece was destroyed in an attempt to remove it. Many of the loose records were carried out and others are in a steel vault in the basement. The court house was built ten years ago and cost $125,000. The fire started in the jury room, which was vacant. The county school superintendent was conducting an examination of fifty school children in the court room, and they were all rescued.

The firemen were helpless in the beginning, and soon deserted the court house to save surrounding buildings. A high wind prevailed, and for a time the buildings to the northeast were in great danger from flying embers. Bucket and garden-hose brigades put out many incipient fires. The Central and First National Banks and the offices of the Leader, and the Herald were in the line of fire, and were quickly emptied of books and records.

When the fire was under control it was found that the first floor and the basement were partly saved from destruction by fire, but deluged with water. In addition to the total destruction of the Hart statue many valuable paintings in the court rooms were lost. These were portraits of Henry Clay, Richard Menefee, William T. Barry, Judge Robertson, Thomas F. Marshall and other famous Kentuckians painted by Healey, Sully and other noted artists. The loss on the building is $60,000; insurance $40,000.

Logansport Journal Indiana 1897-05-15