In 1880, Clara Perry purchased two adjoining lots on what was then Vertner Ave from Winn Gunn and Samuel A. Cairns for $320 apiece. The late Italianate, brick house on the property was built shortly thereafter. Here, Clara resided with her husband, Abraham, a notable African-American horse trainer; one of his mounts, Joe Cotton, won the Kentucky Derby in 1885. When Abraham died in 1908, the Lexington Herald-Leader lauded him as “one of the most successful race horse trainers in Kentucky, as well as one of the most substantial Negro citizens of Lexington.”
The Perrys were an intergenerational household, for son Abraham Murray Perry also resided in this home. A doctor of some repute, he was appointed city physician by the Board of Health in 1918. Contending with discrimination, he was shot at on Race Street while running for magistrate in 1925.
Abraham Jr.’s daughter, Julia, lived at the house during her childhood and seems to have taken after grandmother, who was a vocalist at the Consolidated Baptist Church on South Upper Street. She left Lexington to attend Westminster Choir College and eventually studied at the Julliard School of Music. Awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships, she spent nearly six years in Europe and studied with noted composers Luigi Dallapiccola and Nadia Boulenger.
Upon returning to the United States, Julia taught at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College and served as composer in residence at Atlanta College. In addition to various shorter works, Perry wrote twelve symphonies in her lifetime. Follow this link to listen to one of her more prominent compositions, Stabat Mater.
When Clara died interstate in 1929, the house at 216 Eastern Ave passed out of the family. It was eventually purchased by the Lexington Lodge in 1948 and thereafter served as headquarters for the Elks Club, the Lexington Masonic Club, and the New Birth Interdenominational Church.