Last night, while having dinner with my parents, I groaned in mock despair, as the inevitability of genetics was driven home once again – there is no doubt whose daughter I am! Mannerisms, temperament – these traits can, sometimes, be traced back to our families of origin. And other things too, crop up in the most unexpected ways – like a comment my cousin made on social media this morning regarding his father: “When traveling with dad, I never knew if we were about to hit something or if we came across a road side historical marker. Either will result with a sudden slamming of the brakes.” I too, brake for historic markers, and the other day I was delighted to find one in front of a long, imposing building on Main Street in Stanford, Kentucky.
In April of this year, a historical marker was unveiled at the former Stanford Female College on Main Street, a two-story brick building constructed in three phases in the late-19th and early 20th centuries. Stanford, the county seat of Lincoln County, one of Kentucky’s three original counties (created by the Virginia Assembly in 1780), boasts many historic sites and significant architecture. The marker, the county’s 25th, marks the long academic tradition of the building, now a funeral home.
Chartered by the Kentucky legislature in 1869, the trustees of the Stanford Female Academy (known variously as the Academy or the Standard Female Seminary) appropriated $4,000 (roughly around $76,000 today) to purchase a lot in town and construct the west side of the current building. The resulting two-story, five bay wide brick building has a projecting central bay, round arched windows, and two interior chimneystacks on either side of the central hall. The hipped roof building reflected the popularity of the Italianate style in Kentucky at the time, with a cornice accented with brackets and a low hipped roof. The rear ell of the building served as the dormitory; the center, two-bay block portion (which projects out in the middle of the facade) was in place by 1886. This section had a full porch at one point and one of the two windows was a door; this section was used for “Recitation Rooms.”
Classes began in 1871, and the college offered “all the branches of a thorough English course” as well as music, the languages, painting and drawing. Tuition prices ranged from $25 to $50 (I don’t know if this was per semester, or the academic year), with $25 procuring the “primary” course of instruction and $50 the “collegiate level.” Mrs. S.C. Trueheart was the principal.
The college continued to educate young women of the region until closing in 1907. At that time, the building became home to the Stanford Elementary School, which operated in the old college building until 1931. While operating as an elementary school, the eastern portion of the building was added (the far right side of the building, which is recessed from the central portion) sometime between 1908 and 1914. For a brief period in the 1930s, the building was known as Noe Apartments, until 1930, when it became a funeral home, the role it continues to play today.
The Kentucky Historical Society runs the historic markers program – more than 2,400 have been placed across the Commonwealth. There is another one right across the street, but I’ll save that story for another post. I often bemoan historic markers designating “this was the site of…” and the landscape has changed beyond recognition, or the building the sign commemorates has long since been demolished. But that is not the fault of a worthy program designed to alert and inform Kentuckians about the history all around us; rather, it is the careless way in which we sometimes treat our history and historic resources.
Like my Uncle, I love to stop for historic markers. Although this post is a day late to commemorate the certification of the 19th amendment (August 26, 1920) – giving women the right to vote – I applaud all of the women and men who worked to provide a quality education to at least some segments of our population – and the diligence of those folks who work to preserve their efforts through preservation and recognition today.