John Baird, draper, architect and benefactor, was born in 1813, at Lugar Street, Cumnock, where his father David kept the Tup Inn. Previously, David Baird had tenanted the farm at Longmore on Logan Estate. When David Baird married Jean Vallance, they ran the Tup Inn, which became a popular establishment in the town.
When his father died, John Baird inherited a considerable amount of property in Lugar Street . This consisted of a row of thatched houses which John Baird pulled down in the 1860s and replaced with a handsome building containing business premises where he operated his drapery shop.
John was the only son and after leaving school he was sent to learn the joinery trade and soon became an able workman. During this period of his life, he read extensively, particularly in science and art. At an early age he developed an aptitude for drawing, which continued as a young man. He would walk regularly to Catrine to get instructions from one of the draughtsmen in the Cotton Mill. He studied chiefly mechanical drawing and examples of this work survive in the Baird Institute museum collection. Life as a working joiner did not really suit John Baird, so he turned his attention to the drapery trade. When he retired, he disposed of his drapery business to John Goldie, who continued the trade.
John Baird died on 27 July, 1888, in his 76th year and he is buried at the old cemetery in Cumnock. In his will, he made a bequest that his estate be used to provide a public building in Cumnock, which would contain a museum, recreation and reading rooms, on the land owned by him in Lugar Street, known as Baird`s Place. The Baird Institute was opened on 2 March 1891 by Mrs. Brakenridge, wife of the town clerk. The building was designed by Mr Ingram of Kilmarnock, the son of John Baird`s early instructor in engineering drawing. The building is in the Scottish Baronial style of architecture, standing about 30 feet back from Lugar Street. It is constructed of pink sandstone, quarried at Auchinleck.