Henry Clay Hotel (1930-1975) and Henry Clay House
The Henry Clay hotel became the largest in the city when it opened in 1930. The hotel operated until 1975 and closed similar to many other downtown hotels facing increased competition from interstate hotel chains and declining railroad traffic that also reduced business for downtown hotels that were often located near railroad depots. The former hotel was remodeled and converted to the present apartment complex known as the Henry Clay House.
Backstory and Context
The history of large hotels in Ashland dates back to 1856 when the Aldine opened at 15th and Front Street. The Aldine was first large hotel in the region and had seventy-five guestrooms and one common bathroom for guests to use. Similar to many large hotels in the Border States, the Aldine served as a hospital during the Civil War. By 1896, the aging Aldine had been surpassed by newer and grander hotels such as the Ventura. Although the Aldine closed its doors, the city was once again home to a major hotel in 1930 with the opening of the Henry Clay Hotel.
Constructed in 1856 by the Kentucky Iron, Coal, and Manufacturing Company, the Aldine included seventy-five rooms and one separate bathroom that was reserved for women. Records indicate that at the time of its opening, the amenities of this bathroom for women were limited without any tile work and no functioning warm water. The hotel improved along with the growth of the city. During the height of its popularity, the Aldine was one of the few locations that could accommodate large numbers of guests, and so it became one of the centers of the town's early social scene.
During the Civil War, the hotel served a different purpose. When the war came to Kentucky, the Aldine was converted into the Kentucky 18th Brigade hospital in 1861, only five years after the opening of the hotel. The hospital remained open for four years and hired local women to assist the physicians and nurses. This was a part of a larger movement by Union women who helped whenever and however they could during the war in ways that both reinforced and challenged the antebellum notion of gender roles as women performed relief and domestic service but did so outside of the home. The hospital at the Aldine was aided by the women of the Greenup Aid Society, an organization led by local women who washed and cleaned linens and helped create new bedsheets and shirts for the wounded.
After the end of the Civil War, the Aldine remained operational until 1896 when the Ventura opened its doors for business. The Ventura was a brand-new hotel with one hundred rooms and additional facilities to provide for guests. This marked the decline of Aldine.
Hanners, Arnold. Ashland a Long Time Ago. Ashland, Kentucky. Ashland Daily Independent, 41129.
Ashland; Powers, James and Baldridge, Terry; Arcadia Publishing; 2008; pg 51 accessed online, December, 28, 2018 by Karen Newman who suggested useful updates to this entry.