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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
John McMurtry, builder and architect, was born September 13, 1812, in Fayette County, Kentucky, son of David and Margaret Griffith (Levi) McMurtry. His parents came to Kentucky from Maryland.
McMurtry received his initial training through apprenticeship to Gideon Shryock, living in 1833 with other apprentices in Shryock's Lexington home. After 1835, when Shryock departed Lexington, McMurtry rose quickly to local prominence.
In 1836 he built the Lexington & Ohio Railroad station, Kentucky's first train depot. In 1839 he designed a dormitory for Transylvania University , and in 1839-40 the Transylvania Medical Hall, a notable structure in the Greek Revival style; it was used as a Union hospital during the Civil War and burned in 1863.
In 1841-42 McMurtry "made a specialty," he wrote, "of the study of architecture" by touring in Europe. In 1842 a European-trained architect, Thomas Lewinski, arrived in Lexington, and the two men collaborated on a number of structures, including Christ Episcopal Church; Loudoun, the Francis Key Hunt residence; the Danville School for the Deaf; and White Hall, the Cassius Clay residence near Richmond. In each instance, McMurtry played the role of builder rather than architect.
McMurtry worked prolifically in a variety of architectural styles for both private and public clients. His most significant achievements were in the residential forms of the Gothic Revival, including Elley Villa ("pointed style"), Ingelside ("collegiate style"), and Botherum (Greek Revival exterior with Gothic interior), all from the period 1850-52. Major Greek Revival specimens include the Elms, the McCauley House, and the Robert and Charles Innes houses, also from the 1850s. His chief Italianate work was Lyndhurst, a residence built in the 1860s. McMurtry produced, in addition, churches, courthouses, amphitheaters, gateways, distilleries, stables, and commercial buildings.
Remarkable for his enterprising versatility, McMurtry built Lexington's first iron-front building; introduced the brick foundation in Kentucky; erected Lexington's first stone business front; and introduced poured concrete sills. He operated a planing mill and a machine shop, was a farmer and a realtor, and secured over a dozen patents ranging from bullets to seed cleaners.
On November 3, 1836, McMurtry married Sarah Ann Taylor; she died September 13, 1838. On September 8, 1842, he married Elizabeth Clark. McMurtry died March 3, 1890, and is buried in the Lexington Cemetery.
JAMES D. BIRCHFIELD, Entry Author
Selected Sources from UK Libraries:
Lancaster, Clay. Back Streets and Pine Trees; the Work of John McMurtry, Nineteenth Century Architect-builder of Kentucky. Lexington [Ky.: Bur, 1956. Print. Kentucky Monographs ; No. 4.
NA737.M42 L3, Design Library
Lancaster, Clay. Gideon Shryock and John McMurtry : Architect and Builder of Kentucky. Place of Publication Not Identified], 1943. Print.
NA710 .L360 1943, Special Collections Research Center
Lancaster, Clay. The Work of John McMurtry ... 1939. Print.
Theses 1939, Young Library - Theses 5th Floor Rotunda