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Danville Theological Seminary

The Presbyterians in Kentucky had long wished to establish a theological seminary, indeed for years there were two separate theological funds at Centre College and the Synod of Kentucky. There had been one brief, unsuccessful attempt to establish such an institution at Centre in 1828, but the venture lasted only one year. The fact that Danville eventually won the competition for a seminary was due in large part to the effort of Robert J. Breckinridge. Breckinridge and supporters faced formidable competition for there was already a seminary in New Albany, Indiana, and bids had also been submitted from Peoria, Illinois, St. Louis, Nashville, and Cincinnati. Danville was aided in the cause by the fact that Centre President John C. Young was serving as moderator of the General Assembly, and Young proceeded to appoint Breckinridge to the committee assigned to determine a location. The Synod of Kentucky made Danville even more attractive by offering to raise $60,000 for the endowment of three chairs and to furnish ten acres of land.

Danville won the competition, and the seminary opened in October 1853 with a faculty of Robert J. Breckinridge, Edward P. Humphrey, and Joseph G. Reasor. Stuart Robinson served from 1856 to 1858, while Stephen Yerkes, elected in 1857, served until his death in 1896. In all, 16 professors served the seminary, and 396 students matriculated at the institution.

For the first eight years the seminary prospered and showed great promise with suitable endowments and an average attendance for 40 students, but the Civil War and its aftermath dealt the young institution a blow from which it never really recovered. The Presbyterian Church in Kentucky split, with Southern students drifting off to other seminaries. Lane Seminary in Cincinnati provided direct competition, and the seminary's guiding light, Dr. Robert J. Breckinridge, resigned in 1869 due to failing health.

By 1883 the entire faculty had departed with the exception of Stephen Yerkes, and seminary work was virtually suspended. Extinction was averted only when members of the Centre faculty, including President Ormond Beatty and Vice-President John L. McKee, agreed to teach in the seminary. Several attempts had been made to reunite the Northern and Southern branches of the church in joint administration of the seminary, the most notable being in 1883, but it was not until 1901 that the Danville Theological Seminary merged with the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, founded in Louisville in 1883. The consolidated institution was known as the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of Kentucky, and then later as the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Originally housed in Old Centre, the seminary moved into a large building in Constitution Square in 1854. As the seminary and the College solidified their ties, the College allowed many seminarians to use College facilities. In 1892 the seminary completed Breckinridge Hall as a dormitory for its students, but never used more than a fraction of its rooms. When the seminary left Danville, Centre College occupied the hall.