James Bennett McCreary
On August 31, 1975, James Bennett McCreary, a native of Madison County, was inaugurated governor of Kentucky. While advocating peace and reconciliation, his campaign had traded on his rank of lieutenant colonel in the Confederate cavalry of John Hunt Morgan. A cautious leader, McCreary's administration was marked by moderate reform. The editor of the Louisville Commercial concluded when his term ended, "As Governors go, he has been a good one."
One might think that after three terms in the Kentucky House (1869-75), one term as governor (1875-79), three terms in the U.S. Congress (1885-97), and one term in the U.S. Senate (1903-09), McCreary would be ready to retire from public life. However, in 1911 at age 73 McCreary embarked on his second race for the governor's office.
McCreary was a skilled politician. He spoke well, remembered people he had met, and knew where the votes were. He used traditional tactics such as a barbecue that featured 3,000 gallons of burgoo and 140 sheep, as well as the use of automobiles and motion pictures, to reach voters. Not insignificantly, his successful campaign, which coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil War, again emphasized his Confederate ties.
McCreary's administration was marked by some progressive actions that ushered in the beginning of a new era in Kentucky politics. Among the numerous measures enacted by a strong general assembly was the creation of Kentucky's 120th - and last - county, which was named for the governor.
The Madison Countian resided for years at 527 West Main Street until his death in 1918. McCreary is buried in the Richmond Cemetery with his pet parrot, Polly.
The McCreary Building
While a U.S. congressman, James B. McCreary secured funding to build a federal building in Richmond. Contractor Samuel Rice completed the building in 1897 at a cost of more than $100,000. The U.S. Post Office occupied the first floor and a Federal District Court and other government offices were housed in the remainder of the building.
The McCreary Building is Madison County's only formal example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture. This uniquely American variation of the Romanesque style, named for architect Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-86), was extremely popular from about 1875-1900, especially for public buildings. The massive stone construction, doors and windows framed by round arches, deep-set windows, and cavernous door openings framed in contrasting stonework, and the single tower exhibited by this building are hallmarks of the Richardsonian Romanesque style. In the 1990s a major addition, which faithfully matched the original exterior, was made to the building.