History

The mission of the Art Center is to generate enthusiastic participation in and support of the arts and to provide opportunities that increase awareness, understanding, and appreciation of and participation in the arts.
The mission of the Art Center is to generate enthusiastic participation in and support of the arts and to provide opportunities that increase awareness, understanding, and appreciation of and participation in the arts.

The building was built in 1842 as the home of Milton K. Alexander and plays a significant role in the local history of Paris.  The original part of the house is a two-story brick rectangular structure, Italianate in style.  In 1856, Mr. Alexander died and his heirs purchased the house.  An addition to the house was added at the back of the original structure in 1859 to accommodate the larger family.  The house continued to be a focal point for the family and the larger community of Paris.  In its current use as the Bicentennial Art Center and Museum, it is a fine example of adaptive reuse of an historic building.

Milton K. Alexander was a central figure in the development of the town as a commercial center, and his home is representative of the early history of Paris.  He was the town’s first licensed merchant.  For twenty-five years he also served as the town’s Postmaster.

Abraham Lincoln handled legal work for Alexander, and was entertained at the Alexander’s home.  In this respect, the house, located one block from the courthouse, is representative of the town’s role as the seat of the Edgar Circuit Court in the years when Abraham Lincoln practiced law as a circuit riding attorney.  Another visitor to the home was Stephen Douglas, a prominent attorney, a rival of Lincoln and a participant in the famous Lincoln-Douglas Debates.

In 1918 Horace Link purchased the home from W. E. McMillan, grandson of Milton K. Alexander.  From 1915 to 1938 the building was used as a funeral home.  The history of the Art Center reaches back to the Paris Woman’s Club whose art department early in the 1940’s held countywide art exhibits.  Evolving from this came the Paris Art Guild, whose membership increased and strengthened to become in 1952 the Paris Art League.  This group soon offered painting classes, programs, exhibits and field trips.

In March 1975 the group applied for grant money through the Horizon Project, a part of the United States Bicentennial Celebration, to form an art museum.  Thus came the name Bicentennial Art Center & Museum.

In 1980, Paxson Link, son of Horace Link, donated the house to the Bicentennial Art Center & Museum in memory of his wife, Louise Cole Link, a patron of the arts in Paris and a very active member of the Paris Art League, a forerunner of the Art Center.

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