Kentucky Tourism

Waveland History

Established in 1971

Six miles south of downtown Lexington stands one of Kentucky’s most dignified and gracious antebellum mansions. Completed in 1848 by Joseph Bryan (1792-1887), a grandnephew of Daniel Boone, Waveland represents a way of life that has long since vanished. According to family tradition Daniel Boone surveyed the original 2,000-acre grant for his nephew, Daniel Boone Bryan (1758-1845), a renowned frontiersman, historian and poet. On this land, Daniel Bryan built a stone house. Bryan equipped his estate with a number of innovations that proved to be profitable. He built a gun shop that at one time employed 25 men, operated a gristmill, manufactured saltpeter for gunpowder, ran a blacksmith shop, a distillery, and a paper mill. He also built a Baptist Church on his property and established a school for females.

Two years after Daniel Bryan’s death, his son, Joseph Bryan, Sr., tore down the old stone house and began construction on the Waveland mansion. The name for the estate came from the way the wind blew or waved the fields of grain and hemp surrounding the building site. As with so many prosperous farmers and planters of the time, 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.

Lumber came from trees cut on the Waveland property. The bricks came from clay dug and burned on site. The estate’s blacksmith wrought the iron needed in construction. Stone for the foundations and some of the decorative work was quarried and dressed at Tyrone on the Kentucky River and hauled to Waveland. Five huge Ionic columns grace the portico and frame front entry of the mansion. The doorway is considered to be an exact copy of the north entrance to the Erechtheum at the Acropolis in Athens. When completed, Waveland epitomized the grace and charm of an antebellum Kentucky plantation house.

The Bryan family lavished time and money on Waveland, making it one of the show places of central Kentucky. The house is typical of the Greek Revival style. The rooms have high ceilings for relief from the hot summer months, a wide hall, and long porches on either side of the house. The side porches provide an excellent view of the surrounding countryside.

Joseph Henry Bryan (1836-1931) inherited Waveland from his father Joseph Sr. in 1887. Described as a giant of a man with a booming voice and imposing presence, Joseph H. Bryan established Waveland as one of the premier thoroughbred and trotter farms in Kentucky. Bryan produced a number of world-famous trotters including, “Waveland Chief,” one of the most celebrated sires in the horse breeding industry. “Eric,” one of the fastest trotters in the region and “Olaf,” an amazingly swift huge black gelding, complemented the Waveland stables. “Ben-Hur” and “Wild Rake” gained national prominence for their speed on the racetrack. “Wild Rake” never lost a heat and was sold to William Rockefeller in the 1880s for $7,800.

In 1894, the Bryan family sold Waveland to Sallie A. Scott, who sold the estate to James A. Hulett, Sr. in 1899. In 1956, the Commonwealth of Kentucky purchased the house and less than two hundred acres of the original 2,000 for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture as an experimental farm. In 1957 Waveland became a Kentucky Life Museum. The museum depicted Kentucky life from pioneer days through the Civil War. In 1971, the University of Kentucky deeded Waveland to the Kentucky Department of Parks. The mansion and outbuildings are situated on 10 acres. The house and grounds are open for tours. The theme of the Waveland State Park is to depict Kentucky life on a Kentucky plantation during the 1840s. The mansion is decorated in antebellum style. The outbuildings include a two story brick servants quarters, an icehouse, smokehouse, and barn.