Starting My Search
After moving to Lexington, KY (from Poughkeepsie, NY) in 1973, my family did a lot of sightseeing around the state. We were fortunate to have so many interesting locations close by for day trips (Natural Bridge and Mammoth Cave were two favorites). I remember seeing the Man O’ War statue for the first time at Faraway Farm sometime within those first few years. It was relocated to the Kentucky Horse Park in 1977 and I saw it there several times.
My now hazy recollection was parking somewhere close in a remote location. Then we got out of the car and walked over to the site. From my memories, the statue was not visible when we first drove up (of course I was small then). But once we approached, the gigantic bronze creation appeared out from behind the bushes and greenery. This memory has always stuck with me. Though my family took their share of pictures on family trips, it was not something were were fanatics about. And without a smartphone in hand, taking photos was more of an afterthought and not a first reaction.
During one of my Kentucky nostalgia binges, I started searching for the original location of Man O’War’s gravesite. Surely my visit in the early seventies with Dad, Mom, and Brother was not just a figment. I saw the statue at the Kentucky Horse Park several times on field trips and during a a week during the summer as camp counselor so I knew what it looked like up close. But the original location was hard to find. I knew it was at Faraway Farm, but that name had changed over the years and the land divided. My searches during the first couple of weeks could only come up with one actual mention of a location – on TripAdvisor.com where one posted said to search for 3986 Huffman Mill Pike, Lexington, KY 40511 in Google Maps.
Reaching Out For Help
Much to my dismay, this area looked nothing like I had remembered. Further more, photos of the 1947 funeral and the 1948 statue unveiling showed a magnificent walkway leading up to the statue positioned on an earthen mound and surrounded by a moat and stone enclosure. I contacted Mt. Brilliant Farm through their Facebook page. Someone responded the next day that they thought the location was in a clearing surrounded by some trees off Huffman Mill Pike on the property of next door Man O’War Farm. This location I found out is now the home of Man O’ War Farm LLC, a private business and closed to the public.
I also contacted Barbara D. Livingston through her website since web searches related to Man O’War came back to her time and time again. I later remembered that I had watched her wonderful video ‘Chasing Man O’War’s Ghost‘ from the Daily Racing Form channel. It’s a quick 9 minute watch full of her personal photography and well worth your time.
“Barbra Livingston retraces the locations where Man o’ War raced, lived during his stallion career, and is buried. Those locations include the long-shuttered Havre de Grace racetrack and Glen Riddle Farm in Maryland; and Faraway Farm (now Mt. Brilliant Farm), Man o’ War Farm, and the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. Empty and broken-down stalls abound yet, for Livingston, Man o’ War’s ghost is still – and will forever be – ever-present.” » youtube.com
Barbara replied and sent me some nice photos of the actual funeral from her collection. She had visited the original location several times but only in the years after the monument was relocated. All she found was a peaceful clearing surrounded by trees and growth. She did not know how the layout of the original monument and walkway was situated. She also sent some map screenshots and noted the important areas in addition to the paddock, like where Man O’War’s long-time groom Will Harbut was laid to rest just a few months before the great thoroughbred. The following two photos are screen captures from her video. I was able to add the notations only recently.
Using Google Earth, Bing Maps, and any other free service available could only show me recent images and limited historical photos. My big aha moment came when an ad for HistoricAerials.com popped up in my Facebook feed. I was finally able to see images from before the ’90s for this location. The site offers free heavily watermarked viewing for their entire catalog. But at last I was able to see what this quiet plot of land looked like going back to the fifties! Though their photos were not as detailed as I would have liked, it did show me the original orientation of the walkway, the ring of tress, and a blurry image of the actual statue from the sky.
I spent way too much time laboring over getting the exact coordinates correct for each year before making my purchase for eight photos. They also have a monthly subscription package but those images come with a watermark and are much smaller. As a web developer and graphic artist, this is still a labor of love and so the time spent in Photoshop is just part and parcel of each of my personal endeavors. And for anyone who is interested in this topic and needs some of my original images, I’d be more than happy to provide. Larger versions are also display on the home page.
However, it was fortunate that the years ’58 and ’59 were available. This showed the time period that the original walkway up to to the monument was done away with and a new public access was created from the west side. In 1958, you can see that the fields were divided both to the north and south of the paddock area. Entrance to the area was no longer through the main gate to the farm, but directly from the left. There is a trace of a trodden path at this point. By 1959, a paved semicircular driveway is visible. This part remains to this day, though it is partially overgrown with grass.
Pinpointing the Monument’s Location
The next step was placing the monument’s exact location on a current aerial photo image. Though some of the landscape has changed over the years with paths and fences being added and buildings removed, the general layout is similar today as it was in 1947. I would love to see what this paddock area looked like before all construction, but have yet to find any photos. The closest I can find is when it was first being built in January 1947.
1956 vs. 2020
Here is the original location of the Man o’War memorial superimposed on a Google Earth screenshot from 2020 and compared to 1956. There is a structure laying flat on the ground seen in many current aerial photos just to the east of the statue’s original location. I do not know what this is as it only starts showing up around 2018 in other aerials. [Google Maps] This area is located in his former paddock area near his second barn which was his home from 1938 until 1947.
Here’s a larger version of both images – 1950s and TODAY.
As It Looks Today
Here is how this area looks today via Google Earth (circa 2015 imagery). It’s quiet and relatively empty with little evidence of a once popular tourist attraction. The monument would have been standing in the center just beyond the now overgrown semi-circular driveway. A blue tarp lays at the top right part. The original paved walkway lined with trees would have approached from the right. Visitors would have entered through the main gates to the farm. Around 1958/59, this area was sectioned off with new fences and public access was now via Huffman Mill Pike through one of two points entering onto a paved semicircular driveway.
Depending on the season and certainly in the later years, this area was full of a lot more large trees and lush greenery. When I visited in the early 70s, I faintly remember parking with my family along side the road and walking just a short bit. The statue was not visible (at least from my diminutive perspective) until we approached much closer. Then the great horse seemed to rise out from behind the bushes. It was a quiet place and I was struck at how remote and unassuming this location was – especially for such a grand monument in honor of a highly acclaimed horse. Man o’War and his looming glass eyes seemed to look directly down at me from atop his pedestal. It was quiet here with no other visitors around. And as we eventually left, Big Red seemed majestic, if not a little sad. Weathering had taken its toll and the discoloration on his face made him look like he was shedding a tear. As a young boy, it was strange to see such a big life-like statue up close and not be struck with how still it could be.
I found some of the clearest photos of the monument from the 1950s as part of the Photo Collection from Patricia Williams MacVeagh that were donated to the National Sporting Library & Museum. Several are displayed on my home page. One of them shows Ms. MacVeagh waving goodbye to Man o’War at the conclusion of her visit to Faraway Farm in 1958. I can’t find any personal photos of my visit to the area. But if one image could encapsulate the moment from my memories, it would be this one.
Relocation to the Kentucky Horse Park
The monument and graves of several horses in addition to Man O’War were relocated to the Kentucky Horse Park in 1977. I visited the park several times in the early 80’s while still living in Lexington. Big Red’s new home is located about 180 yards from the main gate to the left. The statue is perched atop its marble base inside a circular mound measuring 50 feet across and surrounded by a walled 10 foot moat enclosure. The 15 foot wide walkway completes the paved area which is 100 feet at its perimeter. Two spoke-like pathways lead out from the setting through manicured shrubs. Ground lighting and flowers now adorn the area. His “final” resting place is a fitting tribute to a king of the horse world.
Thank you for taking time to explore my website. If you have any personal memories of the area, I would absolutely love to hear from you! Please let me know if there is anything I can add to to the site or correct to make it more accurate. This topic became just a side fascination of mine because it brought back such wonderful memories of spending time with my family and my life growing up in the Bluegrass State.
— Darrell Ludlow