Waveland State Historic Site

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Waveland spring.jpg
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Nearest city Lexington, Kentucky
Coordinates 37°58′17″N84°32′14″W / 37.97139°N 84.53722°W / 37.97139; -84.53722 Coordinates: 37°58′17″N84°32′14″W / 37.97139°N 84.53722°W / 37.97139; -84.53722
Built 1845
Architectural style Greek Revival
NRHP reference # 71000342 [1]
Added to NRHP August 12, 1971

Waveland State Historic Site, also known as the Joseph Bryan House, in Lexington, Kentucky is the site of a Greek Revival home and plantation now maintained and operated as part of the Kentucky state park system. It was the home of the Joseph Bryan family, who followed Daniel Boone through the Cumberland Gap, and became an early settler and horseman of this region.

Lexington, Kentucky Consolidated city-county in Kentucky, United States

Lexington, consolidated with Fayette County and often denoted as Lexington-Fayette, is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 60th-largest city in the United States. By land area, Lexington is the 28th largest city in the United States. Known as the "Horse Capital of the World," it is the heart of the state's Bluegrass region. It has a nonpartisan mayor-council form of government, with 12 council districts and three members elected at large, with the highest vote-getter designated vice mayor. In the 2018 U.S. Census Estimate, the city's population was 323,780 anchoring a metropolitan area of 516,697 people and a combined statistical area of 746,330 people.

Daniel Boone American settler

Daniel Boone was an American pioneer, explorer, woodsman, and frontiersman, whose frontier exploits made him one of the first folk heroes of the United States. Boone is most famous for his exploration and settlement of what is now Kentucky. It was still considered part of Virginia but was on the western side of the Appalachian Mountains from most European-American settlements. As a young adult, Boone supplemented his farm income by hunting and trapping game, and selling their pelts in the fur market. Through this occupational interest, Boone first learned the easy routes to the area. Despite some resistance from American Indian tribes such as the Shawnee, in 1775, Boone blazed his Wilderness Road from North Carolina and Tennessee through Cumberland Gap in the Cumberland Mountains into Kentucky. There, he founded the village of Boonesborough, Kentucky, one of the first American settlements west of the Appalachians. Before the end of the 18th century, more than 200,000 Americans migrated to Kentucky/Virginia by following the route marked by Boone.

Cumberland Gap narrow pass through the Cumberland Mountains

The Cumberland Gap is a pass through the long ridge of the Cumberland Mountains, within the Appalachian Mountains, near the junction of the U.S. states of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee.



The history of Waveland begins with the Boone and Bryan families. The two families met in the Yadkin River Valley, North Carolina, when the Boones moved onto the land next to the Bryan family. It was said that the Bryans outfitted several of the Boones hunting trips. Eventually William Bryan married Daniel Boone's sister, Mary Boone. William and Mary had a son, Daniel Boone Bryan. [2] Daniel Boone surveyed the land that he would give to his nephew, Daniel Boone Bryan, who was a renowned historian, frontiersman, and poet. The area surveyed was about 2,000 acres (810 ha) about six miles from present-day downtown Lexington, Kentucky.

Daniel Boone Bryan

Daniel Boone Bryan settled the land around Waveland by 1786. The name Waveland came from the waves that were visible when the wind blew the fields of grain and hemp surrounding the house. The area was once the home of the biggest hemp and rope producers of the nation. When Daniel Boone Bryan moved to what is now Waveland, he built a small stone cabin. The Waveland mansion was constructed between the fall of 1844 and late 1848. Joseph Bryan had the house built "to please his father" according to a letter written by his son Elijah in 1845. Bryan constructed his office with seven doors, each for a different part of his life. There was a door that connected to the formal dining room, where he and guests would eat. Another door, which locked from his office, was to two upstairs rooms where he would allow travelers to stay if they paid him. He made sure he was able to lock them in for safety reasons. The travelers could not leave their room unless Joseph unlocked the door, meaning he was safe from being robbed or attacked by them at night. Another door led to the fields where the slaves worked. This meant easier communication with them when necessary. Another door led out to the road where businessmen would often travel in to see him. Being an important and successful businessman in Kentucky, he often was visited by others. One door lead into the family parlor, where he could be with his children. The remaining two doors were closets, which were used as safes. [3]

Hemp low-THC Cannabis plant

Hemp, or industrial hemp, typically found in the northern hemisphere, is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products. It is one of the fastest growing plants and was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 10,000 years ago. It can be refined into a variety of commercial items including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.

Safe secure lockable box used for securing valuable objects

A safe is a secure lockable box used for securing valuable objects against theft and/or damage from fire. A safe is usually a hollow cuboid or cylinder, with one face being removable or hinged to form a door. The body and door may be cast from metal or formed out of plastic through blow molding. Bank teller safes typically are secured to the counter, have a slit opening for dropping valuables into the safe without opening it, and a time-delay combination lock to foil robbers/and or thieves. One significant distinction between types of safes is whether the safe is secured to a wall or structure or if it can be moved around. A less secure version is usually called a cash-box.

Bryan was at once a gunsmith, having a large shop and employing twenty five men at one time; manufacturer of saltpeter and gunpowder; operator of a gristmill, a blacksmith shop, Baptist church, a female seminary, a distillery and a paper mill. [4] He was able to manage all of these successfully. He and his wife Elizabeth had twelve children.

Gunsmith person who repairs, modifies, designs, or builds firearms

A gunsmith is a person who repairs, modifies, designs, or builds guns. This occupation differs from an armorer who usually only replaces worn parts in standard firearms. A gunsmith actually does modifications and changes to a firearm that may require a very high level of craftsmanship requiring the skills of a top level machinist, a very skilled wood worker, and even an engineer. Their level of craftsmanship usually requires several years of training and practical experience under a higher level gunsmith, attendance at a gunsmithing school, or both. A gunsmith also does factory level repairs and renovations to restore a much used or deteriorated firearms to new condition. They may make alterations to adapt sporting guns to better fit the individual shooter that may require extensive modifications to the firearm's stocks and metal parts. These repairs and redesigns may require fabrication and fitting of non-available parts and assemblies, which the gunsmith usually fabricates themselves. Gunsmiths may also renew metal finishes to new condition levels, or apply carvings, engravings and other decorative features to an otherwise finished gun. The environment in which all this takes place often varies depending on the specific locality, with some gun stores featuring one or a handful of individuals performing this work under their roof, some may work as individuals in their own, separate shop, or it may be a group of highly trained specialist craftspeople who each contribute their individual skill to completely manufacture highly crafted custom made firearms from basic metal and wood raw materials.

Potassium nitrate chemical compound

Potassium nitrate is a chemical compound with the chemical formula KNO3. It is an ionic salt of potassium ions K+ and nitrate ions NO3, and is therefore an alkali metal nitrate.

Gunpowder explosive most commonly used as propellant in firearms

Gunpowder, also known as black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powder, is the earliest known chemical explosive. It consists of a mixture of sulfur (S), charcoal (C), and potassium nitrate (saltpeter, KNO3). The sulfur and charcoal act as fuels while the saltpeter is an oxidizer. Because of its incendiary properties and the amount of heat and gas volume that it generates, gunpowder has been widely used as a propellant in firearms, artillery, rockets, and fireworks, and as a blasting powder in quarrying, mining, and road building.

Joseph Bryan

Bryan's son, Joseph, inherited Waveland and made the most memorable piece of this historic site. Joseph Bryan's wife convinced him to construct a more memorable and beautiful home than his father had built. He tore down the old stone cabin two years after his father's death so that he could build the large, opulent house that his wife wanted. To reduce construction costs, Bryan constructed the stairway rail using flat pieces of wood instead of rounded ones. Although his wife wanted expensive marble baseboards, Bryan used cheaper stones and had them painted to look like marble. [5]

Marble non-foliated metamorphic rock commonly used for sculpture and as a building material

Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite. Marble is typically not foliated, although there are exceptions. In geology, the term "marble" refers to metamorphosed limestone, but its use in stonemasonry more broadly encompasses unmetamorphosed limestone. Marble is commonly used for sculpture and as a building material.

Proof of how successful the Bryans' businesses were was that he was able to construct most of the house using only his businesses and materials on his land; the lumber he used came from Waveland plantations, the wrought iron was made at the Waveland blacksmith, the bricks used in the buildings were made from some clay gathered on the land, which was then burned on site. The resources that were not at Waveland were the stones that were used for the foundation of the house and also for some decorative work. The stones that were needed were quarried and dressed at Tyrone on the Kentucky River and moved to Waveland. [6]

Kentucky River river in the United States of America

The Kentucky River is a tributary of the Ohio River, 260 miles (418 km) long, in the U.S. Commonwealth of Kentucky. The river and its tributaries drain much of the central region of the state, with its upper course passing through the coal-mining regions of the Cumberland Mountains, and its lower course passing through the Bluegrass region in the north central part of the state. Its watershed encompasses about 7,000 square miles (18,000 km2). It supplies drinking water to about one-sixth of the population of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Bryan decided to build a classic Greek Revival structure. Inspired by the work of Lexington architect John McMurtry, Bryan hired Washington Allen, a well-known Lexington contractor, to oversee the construction of his new home. [7] The house contained fourteen high ceiling rooms, which made them each cooler in the summer, as heat rises. The main doorway of the mansion is considered to be an exact replica of the doorway of the north entrance to the Erechtheion at the Acropolis in Athens. The house also contains a porch on either side, to give a view of the beautiful surrounding country side, as well as a spacious hall and a portico.

Throughout their time at Waveland, the Bryans kept slaves. There were thirteen slaves, three women and ten men. The women were to keep the house clean as well as do the cooking. Margaret Cartmell Bryan, Joseph's wife, made all of the clothing for all of the slaves and the Bryan family. The invention of the sewing machine significantly reduced the time it took her to make clothing. [3]

The male slaves were in charge of the farm. Each one had to keep 20 acres (8.1 ha) of land. In order to save time traveling, the Bryans allowed the slaves to build houses on the property they kept. The slaves at Waveland enjoyed freedoms that were uncommon for other slaves of the day. When they were not working, they were allowed to hunt for themselves. They were also allowed to buy and sell at the local markets, keeping any profits for themselves. Joseph Bryan also allowed the slaves to keep weapons. The slave quarters were two bricks thick, making them better insulated than many other homes in Kentucky. [3]

Joseph Bryan supported the Confederacy during the Civil War and gave them supplies such as horses and food produced on his land. When Union authorities discovered this, they sought to arrest him. Bryan fled to Canada, returning years later when the war had ended. [3] As a result of the war, the slaves at Waveland were emancipated, but they chose to stay and continue working for Bryan, who paid them for their labor, but charged them rent. [3]

Joseph Henry Bryan

Joseph Henry Bryan, one of Bryan's eleven children, lost his house, so he and his wife and children moved back into Waveland with his father. [8] Eventually, Joseph Bryan, Sr. moved out, leaving Joseph Henry Bryan as the owner of Waveland. While he owned Waveland, he established it as one of the premier thoroughbred and trotter farms in Kentucky. Waveland produced some great horses such as "Waveland Chief", "Ben-Hur", "Eric", "Olaf" and "Wild Rake", who never lost a heat and was sold to William Rockefeller for $7800 in the 1880s. Joseph Henry Bryan also built a race track across from the mansion. [7] He and other businessmen would go out to watch horse races. The women, who were not allowed to go, would often go up to the top floor of the house and watch the races with their binoculars. [3]

Joseph Henry Bryan was a notorious gambler. In less than seven years, he lost over one million dollars. Another family member had to sell their home so that they could try to keep Joseph Henry Bryan from losing the property. Eventually, however, Bryan was unable to pay his debt. For this, he was never forgiven by his family. He had to sell the house at auction just to try to pay off the debt. [3] Salle A. Scott bought Waveland in 1894. She sold the property in 1899 to James A Hullet. In 1956, the Commonwealth of Kentucky bought the house and less than 200 acres (81 ha) of the original 2,000 acres (810 ha) for use by the University of Kentucky as experimental farmland.


In 1957, Waveland became a museum that depicted Kentucky life from pioneer days to the Civil War. The house sits on 10 acres of land and now depicts life on a plantation during the 1840s. Period-appropriate furniture was donated to the site. Many of the buildings did not survive, but Waveland currently contains the mansion, decorated in Antebellum style, and four outbuildings, which are the ice house, a two-story brick building that was the slave quarters, a barn, and a smokehouse.

Tours are given daily for much of the year, and the tour guides dress in the style of the 1840s. Tours include the historic house, the slave quarters, smokehouse and ice house, and focus on the Bryan family and life on a 19th-century Kentucky plantation.


  1. National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service.
  2. Tapp, p. 3
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Christen interview
  4. Tapp, p. 5
  5. Christen Interview
  6. Kentucky Parks Online
  7. 1 2 Kentucky State Parks Online
  8. Bryan Family Online

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