Elmendorf Stock Farm

After the death of his first wife, James Ben Ali Haggin made his permanent residence in New York, but spent several months during the summer in Kentucky.  Haggin began searching for a Kentucky farm, for his thoroughbred stable and operations, to be nearer his new fiancée’s family.

On October 22, 1897, Haggin purchased the 545-acre Elmendorf Stock Farm[1] from Colonel Cornelius J. Enright, for $54,479.38 or $100 per acre.  The farm was sold at auction, by William Easton, at Morris Park, Bronx, New York.  The farm was located six miles from Lexington, on the Lexington & Maysville Turnpike (now known as the Paris Pike).  The farm contained several barns with a total of 140 stalls, 40 fenced paddocks, 2 miles of stone fencing and 3 miles of plank fencing.  The farm was also located along the North Fork of Elkhorn Creek.[i]  The local newspaper carried a simple story.

The story hinted that Haggin intended to transfer his stable to Kentucky, but failed to indicate the magnitude of Haggin’s vision.  Over the next decade, Haggin would expand Elmendorf to over 8,900 manicured acres and 2,000 horses.

Elmendorf Farm, at the time of Haggin’s purchase, 1898   <UK>

Land Purchases:

In November 1898 and August 1899, Haggin purchased 887 acres, from Thomas F. and George E. Muir, located on the opposite side of Paris Pike.  In October 1899, the Kenney farm added 275 acres to Elmendorf, when William M. Kenney sold the property located on Ironworks Road, adjacent to Elmendorf.  These four tracts totaled 1,707.42 acres, which Haggin paid $166,673.83 or $97.62 per acre.  These four tracts formed the core of Elmendorf, where Haggin concentrated his stately improvements.

Over the next three years, Haggin continued to add acreage to Elmendorf, which by 1902 contained 12 tracts of farmland, totaling 4,654.10 acres, at the cost of $435,257.83.  This represents $93.50 average per acre.  These farms were located along both sides of Paris Pike, and between Paris Pike and Russell Cave Roads, north of Ironworks Road.

In January 1903, the tax assessment on Elmendorf was increased by $299,296, to $711,000.  The increase reflected the improvements made to the farm, including Green Hills (assessed at $200,000).[ii]

In 1905, Haggin decided to disperse his California breeding stock and sell Rancho del Paso.  He transferred a portion of his thoroughbreds to Elmendorf.  Between 1905 and 1914, to house the expanded breeding stock, Haggin acquired an additional 34 tracts of bluegrass, totaling 4,264.52 acres at the cost of $514,446.41.  This represents $122.00 average per acre.  In total, Haggin purchased 8,918.62 acres for $949,704.24.  The average cost per acre was $106.50.  The bulk of 8,539.42 acres were located in Fayette County, with 379.20 acres in Scott and Bourbon County.

Layout of Elmendorf Farm

Elmendorf was centered along both sides of Paris Pike, where the farm had over five miles of road frontage.  The boundary was roughly on the east by the Kentucky Central Railroad tracks (near Bryan Station Pike), on the south along Paris Pike (from just past the Country Club) to Ironworks Pike, on the west by Huffman Mill Road (with another four miles of road frontage along both sides of Russell Cave Road) and the north by the Bourbon County line.  Overall, with the improvements, Haggin invested in excess of $2,000,000 in the Bluegrass Region.  Today, this would equal about $200,000,000.

Layout of Main Section

Farm Improvements:

Haggin hired Copeland & Dole, architects from New York City, to design and oversee the improvements planned for Elmendorf.  Henry L. Copeland, one of the firm’s principals, was in charge of the Elmendorf account and Adolph Wegner[2] became the resident project manager.  These improvements included a summer mansion, a number of barns and stables, new farm entrances and stone fences, conservatory, offices and powerhouse.  In addition, he built a number of cottages and renovated existing residences for farm workers.  The model for Elmendorf was the Biltmore farm and estate, in Ashville, North Carolina, owned by George W. Vanderbilt.[iii]

The main grounds were laid out with manicured lawns, macadam (crushed gravel) roadways, clay walks (lined with hedges) and stone fences.  The farm was always maintained to a high standard, regardless of expense.  The grounds were maintained as “neat as an English park.”  Farm workers reportedly crawled “through pastures on their hands and knees, pulling out weeds by their roots.”[iv]

The farm was known for paying the highest wages to its workers, including free room and board for many.  One day, a group of local farmers complained to Haggin about the high wages, he replied “you gentleman farm to make money . . . . Well, I farm to spend money.  Good morning, gentlemen.”[v]

            The general layout of the farm was:

- the main entrance was located on Paris Pike, about a quarter mile from Ironworks Road.  The manager’s residence was located to the rear, with the large combination barn just north of the house.

- the farm entrance was also located on Paris Pike, about a quarter mile past the main entrance, towards Paris.  Just inside the entrance, were the farm office, power plant and grain elevator.  A roadway leading from this farm entrance ran about three quarters of a mile to Green Hills.  From Green Hills to Paris Pike was a sweeping valley.

- the mansion entrance was located on Ironworks Road, about three quarters of a mile from Paris Pike.  At the entrance was a gatehouse and lodge.  A macadamized roadway, 100 feet wide, led three quarters of a mile back towards the mansion.

  • to the rear of the mansion, about 250 yards was the Coach Barn, to the north the conservatory, with the reservoir in the distance, to the west original training track and stables and to the northwest of Green Hills were the stallion barns.
  • the dairy barn complex was located on the opposite side of Paris Pike, north of Elkhorn Creek (built in 1908).

The main entrance, looking along Paris Pike, towards Paris, circa 1904   <Ambrose>

During 1901, a residence for the general manager was built near the main gate.  The residence was a two story, stone mansion, with red terra cotta tile roof.  The mansion was finished in March 1902 and cost $75,000.  After Charles H. Berryman was hired during 1904 to be the farm’s general manager, the house was known as the Berryman Mansion.  Later the Widener family favored this residence over Green Hills[vi]

In October 1903, the Blue Grass Traction Company established an interurban line from Lexington to Paris, running along the side of the Maysville (Paris) Pike.  In June 1904, at the main gate, a special waiting station was built for his employees, who used the interurban trolley to reach their homes in Lexington and Paris.  The interurban schedule had hourly runs between Lexington to Paris, beginning at 7:00 am to 10:00 pm.[vii]

Resident Manager’s House, near main entrance, circa 1905    <Ambrose>

The farm entrance, showing office and grain elevator, circa 1901   <Ambrose>

During 1902, the office, powerhouse and grain elevator, located at the farm entrance were completed.  The office was connected by telephone to Green Hills, the Berryman House, supervisor’s residences and the main barns.  In addition, the telephone connected the farm to Lexington, which had connections to New York.  The telephone exchange included a 25-switch board.

The powerhouse was equipped with two innovated gasoline engines, which powered the farm generators.  The farm was wired for electrical lights, with power cables running to all the residences, barns and other buildings.  The powerhouse also generated steam for heating the mansion and several other residences.  The cost was $40,000.[viii]  A system of tunnels was excavated from the powerhouse to the coach barn, Green Hills and the Berryman House to supply utilities, including electricity and steam.[ix]

In February 1904, Adolph Wagner, an electrical engineer, arrived from New York, to work on the electrical powerhouse.  The generators were powered by two early gasoline engines, which failed to work properly.  Colonel Roger D. Williams, who designed the plant, worked with Wagner to install a steam engine, to replace the gas engines.[x]


In November 1903, some workers excavating rock on the farm were using dynamite.  However, the dynamite was frozen in the cold weather.  A worker decided to thaw out the sticks by placing them next to a fire.  The resulting explosion stunned the worker and shattered windows around the farm.[xi]

In July 1904, the interurban installed a switch and spur into the farm (from entrance to the power plant and towards the Coach barn, at the rear of Green Hills).  The spur was used to transfer coal and other supplies to the farm and to ship farm products to Lexington.  The newspaper reported that the number and weight of the supply wagons were “contributing to the poor conditions of the highway leading past the farm.”[xii]

At the power plant, a special elevated trestle and coal chute were constructed on the spur.  Special hopper cars discharged coal into the chute, where an auger transferred the coal into a large bin, behind the plant.  Coal was then fed directly into the boilers to generate electrical power for the farm.[xiii]

Construction photograph of grain elevator and power house, 1901   <Herald>

Another view of office and grain elevator, 1907   <Ekstrom Library>

Near the main entrance, the Combination Barn was built to house stallions and coaching horses.  The barn consists of a center section, with two wings on both sides.  The barn was of fireproof construction, made of stone and brick, with a red terra cotta title roof.  The center section and wings were divided by a fireproof brick wall (to prevent the spread of any fire).  Large circular ventilators, made of galvanized iron, provided free air for the entire barn.  The second floor contained sleeping quarters for the men in charge of the horses.

Combination Barn   <Ambrose>

Combination Barn   <Ambrose>

In December 1901, the farm’s yearlings were transferred across the pike, to the old Muir farm, when a new yearling barn and paddocks were completed.[xiv]

The Coach Barn or carriage house was built to the rear of Green Hills, containing sixteen stalls for carriage horses.  The barn also contained a large storage area for coaches, later used for automobiles and horse vans.  On the second floor were two apartments for Haggin’s coachmen.  The Coach Barn was connected to the mansion by a tunnel.  The tunnel was made of white brick and about five feet tall.

Original greenhouse complex, circa 1900   <UK)

As the construction on Green Hills progressed, a conservatory or greenhouse was built about a half-mile to the rear of the mansion.  Haggin grew a number of rare specimens of flowers and exotic fruits in the greenhouse.  Haggin often shipped out of season fruits to his friends, including pineapples, nectarines, peaches, pears, strawberries and grapes.  The basement also connected by an underground passageway to Green Hills.  Near the greenhouse, a special residence was built for the supervisor of the greenhouse.  Haggin spent hours in the greenhouse, overseeing the plants.[xv]

Greenhouse Superintendent House, circa 1900   <UK>

In April 1913, construction of a new conservatory was finished.  The new greenhouse was built by Lord & Burnham, of New York.  The greenhouse was divided into six sections, covered with glass roofs.  The temperature in each section was controlled by thermostats, which operated valves to ventilators.  A brick building was built to house the workrooms and heating plant.  In the basement, a special mushroom cellar was located.  The new building was located near the present greenhouse, at the rear of the mansion.[xvi]

Sprawling greenhouse complex, used to raise fruit and vegetables for the farm, 1914   <Ambrose>

Interior of Greenhouse, 1914   <Ambrose>

Around 1900, Haggin ordered the excavation of a 20-acre reservoir, on the old Kenney Place, to supply the entire farm with water.  The reservoir was named Lake Elmendorf.  A pump house and pipeline connected the reservoir to North Elkhorn Creek, to supplement the water supply.  In addition, a series of pipelines were laid to the main barns, stables and paddocks.  A barge was kept on the reservoir for Haggin’s use.[xvii]

Reservoir, with dam and pump house   <kyvl>

In July 1909, the reservoir was rebuilt, excavated to bedrock with masonry sides.  The prior year, the reservoir was drained, with the fish transferred to a smaller nearby pond.  After the reservoir was refilled, the fish were returned.[xviii]

The water tank, near the Kenney Homeplace, maintained pressure for the farm’s water pipelines   <UK>

During 1905, the farm installed a pipeline from Russell Cave Springs, on the just acquired Delong Tract, to the main farm.  The spring was later also used for the dairy complex.

View along North Elkhorn Creek, 1900   <UK>

View of two barns along North Elkhorn Creek   <UK>

On the Kenney Place, was a mile long oval training track, which was used to train the famous Nancy Hawks.  The track was located to the west of Green Hills.

Training Track

The training stables were located near the training track.  The stables were painted white, with green trim.

Training Stables and Stallion Barn, circa 1902   <Ambrose>

Training Stable, circa 1902   <Ambrose>

The stallion barn was also located near the training track, built of yellow brick, with red terra cotta tile roof.

Stallion Barn, circa 1902   <Ambrose>

Stone gatehouse to barn complex, circa 1900   <UK>

Built around the farm, was a number of wooden circle stock barns.  These barns were 200 feet in diameter, with an open central courtyard and cupola.  Each barn contained 34 stalls, which opened on the courtyard.  At least seven barns were built.

Gatehouse and circle barn, circa 1900   <UK>

One of the circle barns on Elmendorf, circa 1900   <UK>

One of the Broodmare barns, painted white with green trim, circa 1900   <UK>

Among the improvements made by Haggin, were stone bridges, gates and fences throughout the main section.

The main stone bridge over North Elkhorn Creek, circa 1900  <Ambrose>

The completed North Elkhorn Bridge used by farm workers   <Ambrose>

Cattle Shed, 1911   <Farm Buildings>

Manure Pit, 1911   <Farm Buildings>

Track Diagram of Elmendorf Spur, 1912

Around 1906, the L&N Railroad constructed a mile long spur into the farm from the old Kentucky Central tracks, at Elmendorf Station, just south of Muir Station.  The spur ended just east of Elkhorn Creek.  Haggin built a horse unloading chute and pens, at the end of the track.  In March 1912, the L&N Railroad extended the spur for another mile, across Elkhorn Creek to the dairy plant.  The spur also connected with the interurban traction line, with access to the Paris Pike line.[xix]

Elmendorf Dispersal:

In 1923, the core Elmendorf tracts were sold to Joseph Widener, a traction magnate of Philadelphia.  In 1929, Widener demolished the Green Hills mansion, to avoid paying taxes on an unoccupied house, but left the marble pillars and steps.  The farm was inherited by Peter A. B. Widener II.  He owned the famous stallion Fair Play.

In 1950, the main portion of Elmendorf was purchased by Max Gluck, chairman of Darlington Stores and later ambassador to Ceylon.  In 1984, Jack Kent Cooke purchased the farm from the Gluck estate.  In 1997, the farm was sold again to Dinwiddie Lampton, Jr.

Other portions of the farm became Normandy, Clovelly and Green Gates (formerly the Old Kenney) farms.


[1] In 1881, Daniel Swigert purchased the Preakness Stud from Milton H. Sanford.  He renamed the farm Elmendorf, after his grandmother.  Swigert became one of the preeminent breeders in Central Kentucky, including the famed Spendthrift, Kingfisher, Springbok and Baden-Baden.  Swigert also sold Salvator, Firenze and Ben Ali to Haggin.

[2] Wegner remained at Elmendorf until March 1905, when he left for San Francisco to renovate the interior of the Fairmont Hotel.  Before these renovations were finished, the fires after the San Francisco Earthquake seriously damaged the hotel.


[i] Fayette County Deed Book 112, page 162, Lexington Leader, October 23, 1897, page 5, column 1, Lexington Morning Herald, October 24, 1897, page 5, column 3 and New York Times, October 23, 1897.

[ii] Lexington Leader, January 21, 1903, section 1, page 1 and column 1.

[iii] Lexington Leader, March 10, 1905, page 4, columns 6-7 and Lexington Herald-Leader, February 6, 1972, section F, page 2 and columns 1-4 and April 24, 1984, section D, page 2, columns 1-4.

[iv] New York Times, January 30, 1900, page 1, column 2 and Mitchell, Vickie, “A Life Lived Large,” Keeneland Magazine, pages 48-54.

[v] Lexington Herald Leader, January 10, 1965, section D, page 5, columns 1-4.

[vi] Lexington Leader, January 12, 1902, page 3, column 6 and June 12, 1906, page 1, column 5.

[vii] Lexington Herald, June 12, 1904, page 1, column 5, Lexington Herald-Leader, February 6, 1972, section F, page 2 and columns 1-4 and April 24, 1984, section D, page 2, columns 1-4.

[viii] Lexington Morning Herald, April 21, 1901, Supplement, pages 1-6 and Lexington Leader, September 18, 1902, page 7, column 3.

[ix] Lexington Herald-Leader, February 6, 1972, section F, page 2 and columns 1-4 and April 24, 1984, section D, page 2, columns 1-4.

[x] Lexington Leader, February 2, 1904, page 6, column 5.

[xi] Lexington Leader, November 29, 1903, section 1, page 1, column 3.

[xii] Lexington Herald, June 12, 1904, page 1, column 5, Lexington Herald-Leader, February 6, 1972, section F, page 2 and columns 1-4 and April 24, 1984, section D, page 2, columns 1-4.

[xiii] Lexington Herald, June 12, 1904, page 1, column 5, Lexington Herald-Leader, February 6, 1972, section F, page 2 and columns 1-4 and April 24, 1984, section D, page 2, columns 1-4.

[xiv] Lexington Leader, January 12, 1902, page 3, column 6.

[xv] Lexington Leader, April 6, 1913, section 3, page 1, columns 1-6.

[xvi] Lexington Leader, April 6, 1913, section 3, page 1, columns 1-6.

[xvii] Lexington Leader, August 24, 1919, section 4, page 1, columns 1-7.

[xviii] Lexington Leader, July 30, 1909, page 7, column 3.

[xix] Fayette County Miscellaneous Book 8, pages 578-580 and Fayette County Miscellaneous Book 9, pages 84-88 and 210-214.

William M. Ambrose, Magnificent Elmendorf, Limestone Press, Lexington, 2012.

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