On the Air!

On Monday, June 4, I will be appearing on WTVQ-TV's Midday Kentucky to discuss Lost Lexington. Check it out at noon on Channel 36! There may even be a giveaway!

And I spent two Saturdays in May talking with Doug Fain on All Things Jessamine which airs Saturday's on WNKJ 105.9 in Nicholasville. Doug and I talked about the Rev. John Metcalf House and the Lady Sterling House. You can learn more about the Lady Sterling House by clicking here, too! Click on the links to listen to the podcast if you missed out on those episodes of Jessamine County history!
Doug Fain and Peter Brackney discussing Nicholasville's history.
To check out Peter's other past events, click here.

Lexington, Kentucky's City Hall

The old Lafayette Hotel and present City Hall. Author's Collection.
Lexington, Kentucky may be well on its way to a new city hall. Four developers have submitted proposals to city officials and three of the developers have released renderings of their proposals to the public (pictures below). With city offices spread across five downtown buildings, Lexington has been considering moving its city hall for many years. If city hall moves, it certainly won't be the first time in history. Here are a few locales that have served as Lexington's city hall.

Early City Hall Sites 

In 1845, the Lexington Observer and Reporter noted that "Mayor and council have entered into arrangements with owners of old medical hall to be converted into a city hall." City offices moved into this facility located at the northwest corner of Market and Church streets along with other entities such as the library and the Odd Fellows.1

Market House (Jackson Hall) and home of city hall from 1880-1929. University of Kentucky Libraries.

Lee County, Kentucky, and her courthouses

Lee County Courthouse and Historic Marker in Beattyville, Kentucky. Author's collection
The last time I ventured to Beattyville was in the waning days of the last millennium. With friends, I watched the wooly worms race at the annual festival that draws thousands to the sleepy seat of Lee County. But last week, I returned to do a little business in the Lee County Courthouse.

County Named?

Lee County borders six counties: Powell, Wolfe, Breathitt, Owsley, Jackson, and Estill. It is Kentucky's 10th smallest county by population (7,594) and the 24th smallest county by square mileage (210 sq. mi.).

Its history is complex. Formed just five years after the end of the Civil War, the area that comprises Lee County (like much of the Commonwealth) was divided during the war. According to the Kentucky Encyclopedia, "Union sympathizers formed a Home Guard, headquartered at Rocky Gap, eight miles north of Beattyville. On November 7, 1864, a Confederate force under the command of Lt. Jerry South fought the 20th Kentucky Militia at the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River in Lee County."

By 1870, sentiments likely remained divided. The story told on the historic marker outside the courthouse - that the county was named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee - is quite possibly incorrect. That historic marker was erected in 1964, a time when Kentucky's history was still being rewritten with an unnecessarily southern bent. The Kentucky Encyclopedia raises similar doubts to the necessity of telling Lee's military accolades on Main Street Beattyville. That article cited "strong Union sentiment in the area" during the War the entry finds "a more likely explanation" in Lee County being named after the county of the same name in Virginia because many of the local inhabitants traced their roots to that locale. Lee County, Virginia, the westernmost county in Virginia, was named after "Light Horse" Henry Lee III (who, coincidentally, was the father of General Robert E. Lee).

The Old Courthouse

The present Lee County courthouse is the county's second courthouse. The first was built in 1872, two years after the county was formed. That first courthouse was used until 1977, when it was demolished for the present structure.

Lee County Courthouse from 1872-1977. UK Libraries.

Winchester's Pastime Theater Disaster

Historic Marker on Main Street, Winchester. Author's collection.
On March 9, 1918, occurred what is often described as “the worst catastrophe in Winchester’s history.” The Pastime Theater, located on Winchester, Kentucky’s Main Street could seat 500, but it was not unusual for folks to stand or sit on the floor. It is estimated that at least 600 attended that Saturday evening’s showing of The Silent Man.

At 7:45 pm on that fateful night one century ago, twelve perished under fallen debris from a collapsing wall.

The Pastime

Main Street Winchester, looking north. The Pastime is near the center of the photo on the left (west) side of the street. Main Street Winchester collection.
Opening night of The Pastime Theater (24 N. Main St.), Winchester's second movie house, was on April 4, 1912. At the time, it could seat 333 patrons. The following year, the theater promoted its ability to show "Kinemacolor" films which was the first technology that colorized films (although the technology was relatively short-lived).

Just three years after the theater opened, its operation was transferred to Vic Bloomfield who took a 17-year lease on the building. By May of 1915, the theater had been remodeled, overhauled, and expanded to its final seating capacity by extending the front of the auditorium some twenty-five feet.  That extension was a single story in height, unlike the remaining parts of the theater.

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