BENJ. C. KEISER RESIDENCE

#554 W. Main St., Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky
Built 1829

William Morton, who built the house at the corner (#544-546-razed), acquired two lots in 1829 (Nos. 26 and 27) adjoining his corner property (the 1791 tannery) from Cornelius Coyle's executor. Each fronted 66 feet on Main and Water Streets.

It was then probably that he erected this as well as the corner residence, for rental purposes.

The first known occupant of this large house was mentioned in the deed to the corner property in 1837. The latter was described as fronting on Main St., about 66 feet and divided from the house formerly occupied by Mrs. Shields by a stone fence."

Benjamin C. Keiser bought the house in 1849 from Wm. Morton's heirs. Keiser is listed in the 1838 Directory as "bank messenger," then residing on South Broadway. in the 1859-60 Directory he is listed: "Benj. C. Keiser, messenger Branch Bank of Kentucky, south side Main St., between Lower and Locust."

In 1863, Keiser sold the house to the Geoghegan daughters, adjoining the house and lot sold by the Wm. Morton estate to Mrs. E. Geoghegan and now occupied as a residence by the second parties."

Keiser's release to the purchaser, signed on the margin of the recorded deed, was large and bold, but very "shaky," which verified the following concerning his advanced age, in Ranck's History:

(Early taverns) "Keiser's 'Indian Queen' stood at the corner of Hill and Broadway.--This 'house of entertainment' was kept by the grandfather of our highly respected Mr. Ben Keiser, now probably the oldest native resident of Lexington."

Perrin's History tells of Aaron Burr's visit to Lexington in October, 1806: "Benjamin Keiser, then a small boy, was the first to detect his presence. He saw a gentleman entering town on horseback followed by a white man-servant and recognized him at once, for his always striking appearance had been indelibly impressed on the young boy's mind at an exhibition of wax-works which he had seen a short time before, in which the duel between Burr and Hamilton was represented.

"Col. Burr stopped at Wilson's Tavern, now the Phoenix Hotel. There he was welcomed by a small but distinguished party of relatives and friends, who had proceeded him to Lexington but a short time before. Among the number was his son-in-law, Joseph Alston, afterward governor of South Carolina, and who was loyal to him to the last; Harman Blennerhassett, the cultured and accomplished Irishman whom Burr had fascinated, and last but not least was Theodosia Alston, the idolized daughter of Burr, whom he vainly hoped to make the First Lady and honored mistress of an Imperial Court. A few years after this the gifted daughter of Burr went down in a vessel that was lost at sea, and it is stated as a noteworthy fact that Mrs. Van Prodelles, a Lexington lady and a connection of Mrs. Judge Hawes, of Paris, Kentucky, (Capt. Richard Hawes, Jr.) perished in the same ill-fated ship."

Source: Old Houses of Lexington, C. Frank Dunn, typescript, n.d., copy located in the Kentucky Room, Lexington (Kentucky) Public Library.

Transcribed by pb, July 2006