Henderson County, Kentucky




Barret's donation provided place for manual training center

From the depths of despair to the heights of elation. That's the kind of mood swing experienced by the local board of education in early July 1906.

On July 2nd, the board - which badly wanted to establish a manual training school here - learned there was just no way the members could scrape together enough funds to fulfill that goal.

But on the next day they were summoned to a special meeting where they received an incredible piece of good news. Local industrialist James BARRET presented them with the deed to the "ADAMS property" at the corner of Washington and Adams streets.

He stipulated only that manual training and home economics be taught there.

The property included a "half square" of land and an elegant three story brick structure that was built in 1865 at a cost of about $100,000 - a fortune for that era.

Initial work on it had been done by a "Mr. CARTER," who was described in the newspaper here as "a leading architect and contractor" in Louisville. CARTER, however, was apparently unable to finish the work and the house and its attached two story stable were completed by George C. ELLIS.

It's evident no advance word of the gift had reached the board of education members. In its Thursday, July 5, 1906, edition, the Henderson Evening Journal said they were "as completely confounded as they could have been from a brilliant … shaft of lightning falling from a cloudless sky."

The newspaper, in its headline, termed BARRET'S gesture, "the handsomest gift ever made the city by any of her sons or daughters."

The former residence that would open as a school in 1910 was promptly named BARRET Manual Training High School in honor of its benefactor. Though this was BARRET'S grandest contribution to the community, it wasn't his first.

President of the Henderson Woolen Mill, home of the well-known "Kentucky Jeans," he was a civic leader whose efforts had included helping found the local YMCA.

He had purchased the "ADAMS property" for approximately $12,000.

The school would serve the community's youths for half a century. In 1926, a gymnasium was added and provided Henderson with its largest auditorium. When the playing floor was used for seating, the gym could accommodate 1,700 people. For ballgames it could - and did - seat 1,200 fans.

Reprinted with permission.
Progress Edition, The Gleaner, Saturday, March 30, 1996
Written by Judy Jenkins

Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2002 HCH&GS