Ellen Davis House

This brick cottage with an unusual rounded bay was built around 1880 by Annie Welsh, who had acquired the bulk of the lots on the west side of Chestnut Street from G. D. Wilgus in 1876. When the house was put up for sale as the result of a lawsuit in 1886, the wholesale grocery firm of Curry, Howard & Murray purchased it and conveyed it to Ellen Davis (for reasons unknown). 

Formerly enslaved by Mary Adam Hughes, Davis had given birth at the age of eighteen. The father of the child was Hughes’ son, John, a noted horse breeder. Before the Civil War, she had wed an African-American man named Clay Davis in a common-law arrangement; in 1873, however, she left him and returned to labor at the Hughes family farm. Meanwhile, her son, Robert Henry Hughes, was sent to New York to be educated and spent much of his life in Buffalo.  

Upon John T. Hughes’ death in 1924, Ellen controversially inherited the bulk of his estate, the mansion “Elkton,” and 1,000 acres of verdant farmland (which she promptly resold). Hughes' relatives not only contested the will, but also accused Davis of poisoning the patriarch; the case made the national news and was even covered in The New York Times. Curiously, Davis claimed on the stand that she had obtained the Chestnut Street house in 1895 with funds that John had loaned. 

In 1926, Ellen and Robert relocated to the former Gunn House at 340 E. Third Street but continued to own the Chestnut Street property. Before Robert passed in 1935, he bequeathed the cottage to C. F. Call, a tailor who was residing on Vertner Ave. It remained in the Call family for much of the twentieth century.  



335 Chestnut Street, Lexington, Kentucky