FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - When Leslie Miller became State Regent of the Kentucky Society, Daughters of the American Revolution in 2016, one of her goals was to widen the audience of those who yearned for a deep understanding of the history and culture of the Bluegrass state.
Miller enlisted the help of Lynne Hollingsworth, recently retired from a career as an archivist and senior fundraiser with the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort. Together they planned the first Historic Heritage Preservation Symposium, an ambitious effort to convene nationally-recognized scholars to deeply analyze Kentucky’s early history for a Kentucky audience.
The gamble paid off.
On Nov. 9, the Kentucky Historical Society awarded the Kentucky Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, one of its highest honors for the first Historic Preservation Symposium. KSDAR, benefitting its state headquarters Duncan Tavern Historic Center, received one of only four education awards from the historical society this year.
“To say that we are honored by this award is an understatement,” said Leslie Miller. “We are deeply grateful that our budding effort to spread our wings was rewarded by the leading institution on Kentucky history.”
Miller and Hollingsworth received the award on behalf of the DAR and Duncan Tavern Historic Center, at an awards ceremony in Frankfort.
The inaugural Heritage Preservation Symposium was held in September 2017 at Duncan Tavern and also at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Paris. Three nationally recognized experts presented lectures on Daniel Boone and settling of the West.
“We chose this topic for a couple of reasons,” Hollingsworth said. “First, we wanted to honor the 225th anniversary of Kentucky, but we also wanted to raise awareness of the wonderful painting by William Tylee Ranney ‘Boone Party Coming Through the Gap,’ which is owned and is currently on display at the Tavern.”
Hollingsworth’s highest hope was to nab Stephen Aron as the featured speaker. Aron, Professor & Chairman, UCLA Department of History, wrote one of the seminal books about the early life of Daniel Boone.
Fortunately, Aron was available and he had other business in the area, so he agreed to come. Aron’s commitment led Daniel Ackerman, Curator, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, to also agree to make a presentation. Rounding out the panel was Bourbon County’s own Estill Pennington, art historian and expert on Southern portraiture.
“Historical organizations throughout Kentucky would have been thrilled to land any one of these three speakers, “ Miller said. “Imagine how we felt when we were able to attract all three!”
Those who attended the symposium learned of a Kentucky that represented the last great hope of the early American Dream; a land where a good poor man could own enough acreage to support himself and his family, and leave family land to provide his descendants stability and happiness. There was a shining moment when this future seemed possible, but Kentucky’s idealistic dream died with the advent of the Civil War.
Ackermann picked up on the theme. He pointed out how many fine artists, many of whom were escaping Revolutionary France, brought their skills to Kentucky river towns such as Maysville. Examples of fine furniture exist, and appreciation for this early period in Kentucky is growing because of skilled collectors such as Mack and Sharon Cox of Richmond.
Finally, Estill Pennington discussed romantic ideals as represented in Kentucky art.
Many contributed their skills, time and support to the venture.
Kentucky Monthly, owned by Steve Vest, provided extensive promotion of the symposium and was on hand to provide free copies of his magazine to attendees.
Julie Hutchinson Payne, owner of Payne Fine Arts in Louisville, donated dozens of hours of research time and used newly-recovered research to appropriately arrange furniture at the Tavern.
Judy Owens, an award-winning journalist, publicized the event and recruited a professional photographer to document the symposium.
The descendants of Julie Josephine Ardery (as in Josephine Ardery Foundation) pledged their support, as well as the following other sponsors: Mack & Sharon Cox, Linda & Jerry Bruckheimer, Kentucky Monthly magazine, First Southern National Bank, Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey, Buckner & Susan Woodford Charitable Fund at the Bluegrass Community Foundation and Kentucky Bank.
In all, more than 110 people participated in the Symposium.
Attendance was so strong that the program netted more than $10,000 to benefit Duncan Tavern Historic Center. In addition, members of St. Peter’s Episcopal sold box lunches, so that an additional $1,000 was raised to benefit an emergency fund for those facing difficulties paying heating bills and other needs.
The success of the first symposium led to a second symposium, held in 2018 featuring the history and culture of distilled spirits in Kentucky.
Miller’s administration is winding down, but she has secured a commitment from the incoming administration to continue to offer the Symposium after her term concludes.
The Kentucky Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, is a part of the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution. The Kentucky Society consists of 85 chapters with more than 4,600 members statewide. KSDAR owns and operates the Duncan Tavern Historic center, a 225-year-old building and museum with artifacts and exhibits telling the story of central Kentucky’s history. The building also houses the John Fox, Jr. Genealogical Library and is the state headquarters of KSDAR.