Ed Lyon, Lexington historian and retired Transylvania University professor, will lead guests attending the inauguration of R. Owen Williams as the university’s 25th president, on tours of one of Transylvania’s historic neighborhoods. The tour will feature beautiful Gratz Park, located across the street from campus and the site of the university’s first Lexington campus. The tour will begin with a brief talk about the development of Transylvania under President Horace Holley (1818-1827).
In the first half of the nineteenth century, Lexington's elite realized that the town could not compete economically with the towns on the Ohio River and turned to Transylvania to help make Lexington the intellectual center of the West. Holley achieved great success with the recruitment of faculty and the development of the departments of law and medicine. Transylvania gained a national reputation that attracted students from all over the country. Obstructed by a state legislature reluctant to fund a college considered an elite institution and attacked by religious groups displeased with the secular nature of the education offered, Horace Holley was forced to resign in 1827.
The tour will emphasize key characteristics of pre-Civil War Lexington – a town where slavery was increasingly important; where the rich, middle class, and poor lived together among commercial and manufacturing enterprises; and where people could easily walk from home to places of business and entertainment.