HOPEMONT, THE HUNT-MORGAN HOUSE
201 N. Mill St., Lexington, KY 40507
Hopemont was the home of John Wesley Hunt, who made a fortune from pioneering the manufacture of cotton bagging made for hemp in the early 19th century. After ten years in the manufacturing business, Hunt redirected his capital and energy into a new career - that of a commission merchant. He used his established connections and reputation, as well as his thorough knowledge of the market system, to ship hemp and other products belonging to neighboring merchants and manufacturers to Philadelphia and New Orleans.
At the age of forty, Hunt purchased the lot located at the northwest corner of Mill and Second streets from Thomas January for $3,000. In 1814, he built the house he called “Hopemont,” known today as the Hunt-Morgan House in Lexington. Hunt had acquired considerable capital, and had become Kentucky’s leading entrepreneur. A significant amount of his fortune had been derived from hemp production. At the time of his death in 1849, his estate was valued at $886,989.28. Historians suggest that the practicing of appraising below the real value of property was common, thus John Welsey Hunt has been deemed the “first millionaire West of the Alleghenies.” Even after his death, his grandsons continued in the hemp business until the late 20th century. The last of his descendants in the hemp business was Richard C. Morgan of R.C. Morgan & Co.
Today, the historic mansion and property is owned and operated by the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation. In 1955, The Foundation for the Preservation of Historic Lexington and Fayette County, which later became the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation, was formed to save the house from impending demolition. The organization restored the dwelling to its 1814 appearance and now operates it as a museum and event rental space. Click here to learn more about Hopemont, the Hunt-Morgan House.
New to Hopemont is the Kentucky Hemp Museum! It features a pieces of hemp history from late 19th century to the early 20th century, and describes the Hunt-Morgan family involvement in the Kentucky hemp industry.