History, Tragedy & Legacy

Amanda Harper


"Better to sell and repent than keep and resent"

John E. Madden was born in 1856 in Bethlehem, PA. Upon the death of his father, John had to find ways to help his family survive.


By about 16, John developed an interest in horses. He was uncannily adept at recognizing the differences in gait and
performance among Standardbreds. John began to buy unseasoned animals that he saw as promising at low prices,
then selling them once he and his team had developed them to their full potential. “Better to sell and repent than keep and resent,” was his motto.


When John moved to Lexington in 1889, he lived at the Phoenix Hotel while delving into the world of Thoroughbreds. He purchased a horse named Hamburg in 1896 for $1,200. He developed the colt into a winner and sold the horse to Marcus Daly for $40,001, which set a record for a two-year-old in training.


The proceeds from the sale were used to purchase an initial 235 acres of land which he named Hamburg Place. The area eventually expanded to 2,000 acres and served as the heart of his breeding operations. There, John bred
14 champion racehorses including the first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton.


John’s sons, Edward and Joseph, inherited Hamburg Place upon his death in 1929. Their deaths by suicide left the farm to Edward’s sons, Patrick and Preston. Preston and his wife, Anita Myers, bred the 1987 Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba. Anita’s extravagant Derby Eve galas were the talk of the town for nearly 40 years.


PVA records for Meadowcrest Mansion show that it was built between 1929 and 1931. The three-story Neo-
Georgian house was designed by architect Robert Meekin for Joseph Madden. The total cost of the home was announced at $400,000 including “five master bedrooms, four servants’ rooms, living room, library, dining room, service rooms, gymnasium, tap room, seven bathrooms and five lavatories.” An eight-car garage was later added to
the back of the home.


The home had been unoccupied for some time, and was even the set for a horror fi lm in 2017. The home’s last
owner fi led a demolition permit with the Lexington- Fayette Urban County Government. Crews began tearing down the home in January.


Cowgill said that the 86-acre plot could have a variety of uses where it sits along I-75 and US-60. Their website reads, “We are working our way through the necessary approvals and expect to break ground within a year.”