Education

The Lexington School buys neighboring James Lane Allen estate

Lexington author James Lane Allen lived in the main house at Scarlet Gate in the late 1800s. The Lexington School recently purchased the 12.6-acre property.
Lexington author James Lane Allen lived in the main house at Scarlet Gate in the late 1800s. The Lexington School recently purchased the 12.6-acre property.

The Lexington School has bought Scarlet Gate, the estate where Lexington author James Lane Allen lived in the late 1800s.

Charles Baldecchi, head of the Lexington School, said there is no immediate plan for the 12.6-acre property, east of the private school on Lane Allen Road, which is named for the writer. The school, which had held first right of refusal on the land for several years, bought it primarily because of concerns that it might be acquired by developers, Baldecchi said.

"The important thing was to have control of the property," he said Thursday. "We just couldn't pass up the opportunity. There are very few properties inside New Circle Road with this kind of history, and we're very pleased to have it."

The Fayette County Property Valuation Administrator's Web site lists the sale price as $1.3 million.

Baldecchi emphasized that the history and natural setting of the property, much of which is wooded, will be preserved.

The estate includes a two-story house dating back to about 1795 — where James Lane Allen lived until about age 22 — and a guest house and a stable with a small apartment attached. A small stream separates the estate from the school campus.

The school bought the property from Judy Long Lansill, whose father-in-law, John Scott Lansill, acquired it in the 1930s. Judy Lansill, who has lived at Scarlet Gate since 1980, said Thursday she is pleased to have The Lexington School take over.

"They've been wonderful neighbors for many years," she said. "I would be sad if this was all going to be developed into little houses."

She noted The Lexington School, founded in 1959, held its first faculty meeting in the guest house on the James Lane Allen estate.

Allen, born in 1849, became famous in the late 1800s for his novels and short stories based on Kentucky. He described living at the estate in the introduction to A Kentucky Cardinal, first published in 1894. Allen died in 1925 after moving to New York.

Since closing on the former Allen property last month, The Lexington School has removed some old hollow trees, installed some fencing and started construction on a driveway connecting the school campus and the estate. Future plans will be up to the school's board of directors, Baldecchi said.

"We probably will form a task force to look at long-range uses, but we've already identified some scientific uses," he said. "There is a creek that runs through the property, and one of our retired teachers takes our fourth-grade science class over there every year to identify native birds and plants."

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