HCMF Mission & History

Mission Statement

The Henry Clay Memorial Foundation exists to promote the legacy of Henry Clay, to share his continued relevance locally and nationally as a great statesman, and to preserve his beloved “Ashland” as a testament to his life and his love of Kentucky and country.

The Henry Clay Memorial Foundation owns and operates the Ashland Estate today and is dedicated to preserving Henry Clay’s historic estate and important legacy for future generations. Governed by a diverse volunteer board of directors, the Foundation is working to ensure Ashland remains a vibrant and progressive National Historic Landmark and community resource.


In 1926, Nannette McDowell Bullock, great-granddaughter of Henry Clay and daughter of Anne Clay and Henry Clay McDowell, executed her will which established the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation. In her will, she gave her home, Ashland, and most of the belongings to be used as a Museum. The following is from Mrs. Bullock’s will:

“I make this gift to said Memorial Foundation in the hope that . . . the Foundation may be enabled to acquire, preserve, and maintain “Ashland” and the grounds immediately surrounding it as a public park and perpetual memorial; and the gift is made in trust for that purpose.  I do this not only because of my own deep interest in saving and preserving “Ashland,” an object I have long cherished, but as a testimonial of affection and gratitude to my deceased sister, Madge, and as a proof of our mutual and abiding interest in the preservation of this historic home . . .”

The first recorded meeting of the Foundation was held on August 20, 1926, at the office of the President, Judge Samuel M. Wilson.  The Board voted unanimously to present to the Mayor and Board of Commissioners an ordinance asking that a $200,000 bond issue be submitted to the voters at the regular election in November.  On August 23, 1948, (following Mrs. Bullock’s death) a meeting of the corporation known as the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation was held “for the purpose of electing officers and . . . obtaining an expression of the desires of the corporation and its members, and deciding what action the corporation shall take . . .”  On April 12, 1950, the house was formally dedicated with much pomp and ceremony.  Vice President Alben Barkley gave the dedication speech.

In June 1950, the first Executive Secretary, Mrs. Lorraine Seay, was hired. She remained at Ashland until her retirement in 1986. In September of 1961, Ashland was designated a Registered National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. In 1988, Ashland was declared a “monument at risk.” In 1990, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government granted the Foundation $1.25 million for restoration. The house was closed to the public in 1991 and reopened in 1992 following the major restoration project.

Nannette McDowell Bullock, HCMF Founder
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