In 1834, the first four-room public school was built in Lexington. It was sponsored by a man named William Morton. Seventy years later, the first four-year high school in Lexington opened on the corner of Walnut and Short streets. This school was named Morton High School. As population increased, it was necessary for a larger high school to be built.
In 1908, US$75,000 was given to build a larger facility on the grounds of the old Morton High School. Class sizes began to increase again, and in 1916, a US$400,000 bond was issued for new buildings. One of the buildings that came about in this bond was the building of Lexington High School on the corner of Limestone and Fourth Street. In 1918, the building was opened for classes.
In 1927, the Board of Education granted permission for a new school to be built on East Main Street. On July 6, 1928, the board adopted the name Henry Clay High School, requested by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
That summer, Henry Clay was completed. The Herald Leader reported:
New school is planned after those used in the larger cities.
Henry Clay was supposed to have all of the latest advances.
Perforated ceiling in the music room, good acoustics in the auditorium, built-in lockers with combination locks, a fire gong on each floor, ventilating shutters in the doors, double lighting system, double faced clocks, and a moving picture machine and booth in the auditorium,
reported another source.
Henry Clay had been said to be one of the finest schools in the South. It had nearly 200 graduates by the end of 1929. Henry Clay High School was so successful academically and athletically that it was considered among the top 44 schools in the United States, according to the January 10, 1960 edition of The Lexington Herald.
In 1968, the Board of Education approved the plans for a 91-room location on Fontaine Road: US$6.45 million was to finance the project of the new Henry Clay. In 1999 the school underwent renovation, and in 2006 a connector building was completed, joining the cafeteria to the main classroom building.
HCHS houses the Liberal Arts Academy for gifted and talented education.
The Liberal Arts Academy at Henry Clay challenges its students in all disciplines with required Academy and AP courses that are specially designed or adapted for the Academy's Gifted and Talented-identified population. These courses combine acceleration, differentiation, and enrichment to stimulate and extend student learning. The required Academy Seminars and Academic Mentoring offer opportunities for in-depth exploration and independent study outside the typical classroom.
For its freshmen class, the Liberal Arts Academy has historically selected a maximum of 50 students. However, in recent years, the larger number of students gaining automatic entry into the Academy has caused the class size to increase to about 70 students. Success in the Liberal Arts Academy requires ability, interest, and maturity. The curriculum is rigorous. The school day is longer with a zero hour class required during the freshman and junior years, and the academic workload is more time consuming than that of other high school students. For example, students are required to complete an additional problem of the week, or POW in Academy math courses. Academy students are expected to work at the college level in most of their courses. Admission procedures include submitting an application, parent questionnaire, and having the required test scores (students from Winburn Middle School, the middle school accelerated program, are not required to test as they have already met stringent academic requirements). Each year students and parents must sign and submit a contract outlining the Academy student responsibilities.
As a requirement for this program, each student must complete a total of four years of math, four years of science, four years of English, four years of a foreign language (or to the AP level), three years of social studies, two years of academic seminar, one year of arts and humanities, and a senior mentoring project. The Academic Mentoring Program is an advanced level independent study program that allows students to design their own class content from any subject area and to study under the direction of professional in the chosen field. The program's purpose is to allow students to pursue an idea beyond the opportunities provided in the regular classroom.
22 credits are required to graduate.
In 2006 Henry Clay established the world's first high school history lab in memory of Shelia Lewallen. This lab contains over 500 artifacts and primary sources. The lab uses core content connected lesson plans and an array of artifacts to bring real history to students.
In 2007 Stephen Fritz, an Academy student and class of 2009, got third overall on Teen Jeopardy!. In 2008 Jay Schrader, an Academy student and class of 2010 competed in the Teen Jeopardy Tournament. His younger brother Rob Schrader, also an Academy student, competed in the 2012 Teen Jeopardy Tournament.
On October 22, 2008 Henry Clay physics teacher Karen Gill was named as the 2009 Kentucky Teacher of the Year. Ms. Gill has been teaching at Henry Clay since 1992.
The 2009 Academy graduates were offered over US $9 million in college scholarship monies for their freshman college year. The Academy class also averaged the following: ACT, 32; SAT, 2170; GPA, 4.6. The graduates completed an average of eight advanced placement courses as well. Each year, the Academy produces an average of three national merit finalists.
HCHS offers many varsity sports including: Archery was added as a varsity sport in the 2012/2013 school year
The Henry Clay Men's Soccer Academy defeated Daviess County High School 2-0 in the 2010 state championship game behind goals from John Manga and Addison Manley. This marked Henry Clay's first soccer championship since 1991, and the school's first athletics state title since 2006.
HCHS also offers Hockey, Ultimate Frisbee, and Lacrosse only as club sports since they are not sanctioned sports with the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, and the Blue Devil Marching Band in its own competitive arena. The HCHS Marching Band placed as Grand Champions in the Mid-states Band Association circuit for years 2005-2007, and reserved Grand Champions in 2008. In 2006, the Ultimate Frisbee team, Grapes of Wrath, fought their way to a city championship, led by captain and team MVP, Steven Myers. The Ultimate Frisbee team is currently enjoying a stellar 2008-2009 season which has included the City Championship and State Championship, as well as a top 10 national ranking by the UPA. Also the lacrosse team made it to the Division 2 State Championship in 2007 with an undefeated, 9-0 record. They lost to the Eastern Eagles in double overtime. In the 2012-2013 season, the Henry Clay Men's Lacrosse team posted an undefeated 18-0 record, defeating Lexington Catholic High School by a score of 10-4 to capture the Division 2 State Championship. During the 2012-2013 season the Henry Clay Men's Lacrosse team was ranked in the top ten nationally in goal defense and goal differential, while ranking eleventh nationally in goals scored.
Student organizations include:Pamela Brown, television journalist, daughter of former Miss America and television personality Phyllis George and former Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown
Derek Bryant, former professional baseball player (Oakland Athletics)
Walker Buehler, college baseball player
Collin Cowgill, current professional baseball player (Arizona Diamondbacks, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
Marv Foley, former professional baseball player (Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers)
John Shelby, former professional baseball player (Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit Tigers) and current assistant coach of the Milwaukee Brewers
Andy Barr, member of the U.S. Representatives from Kentucky's 6th Congressional District