A Lunchtime Walk Through Lexington's History

One of the best ways to explore any city is by foot. In the springtime, I love to take advantage of the opportunity to walk around downtown Lexington during lunch. Sometimes my walks are solitary while at times others join me on my walks.

Recently, I had a terrific 2.5 mile lunchtime walk at points due west of downtown. Armed with a camera and a bagged lunch, I began walking. These walks always take me past places previously profiled (see the links below) and places that I'd like to learn more about!

My office is near the site of Asa Blanchard's silversmith shop at Cheapside and I was intent on taking a closer look at the People's Bank on South Broadway before Sarah Tate's talk yesterday at the Thomas Hunt Morgan House.


After walking around the People's Bank and appreciating the 1960s modern architecture, I walked behind the Historic Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church and realized I still have never profiled this historic place on this site.

I then began walking down toward DeRoode Street. I've often passed the Carver Community Center, 522 Patterson Street, and wondered its backstory.
Carver Community Center.
According to the Kentucky Architectural Survey
The site’s history begins with nearby Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church, which established one of the first schools for African Americans in the basement of its “old” church building in 1874. Within a decade, enrollment swelled to 108 students so a church committee raised $900 to purchase a lot for construction of Patterson Street School (site of present day playground). Opened in 1883, Patterson was built within twenty feet of noisy and dangerous railroad tracks. In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration provided funds for construction of George Washington Carver Elementary School, which served neighborhood students from 1934 until 1972.
The area below the Carver Community Center, once part of the Davis Bottom neighborhood, remains largely though work is ongoing to extend Newtown Pike/Oliver Lewis Way through this once-residential area. New homes are being constructed and temporary roads (like Whitmer Way) have been added to accommodate mobile housing units). And it's possible to sneak a glance at parts of UK's campus, too, from this nook of Lexington.
UK's POT visible from an abandoned space on Patterson Street.

According to the Kentucky Heritage Council
Davis Bottom is a residential community located just southwest of downtown Lexington. Established in the 1860s, Davis Bottom served as a portal community after the Civil War for African Americans, Appalachians and Europeans who migrated to urban centers in search of homes and jobs. The community of Davis Bottom is going through its greatest transition due to construction of the Newtown Pike Extension and the Southend Park Redevelopment Project.
The area was once filled with shotgun houses, the decline of which style I've recently noted on this site's Demolition Watch series. After crossing under the Versailles Road viaduct - a road seemingly more massive from beneath - I passed the location of the old Abraham Lincoln Elementary School (another to-be-covered subject).

After leaving the remnants of Davis Bottom and Irishtown, I emerged in what is today known as the Distillery District. Crossing the Oliver Lewis Way Bridge, I looked west once again at the RJ Corman Railyard, the Town Branch and (in the distance) the statue of Henry Clay that stands high above his grave at the Lexington Cemetery.

Walking down West Short Street back to the office is, as always, a trip down memory lane. After all, it was here that I grew up in what was my old Kentucky home. The Historic Western Suburb was platted in 1815 - 200 years ago - and is today one of Lexington's most beautiful historic districts.

So this springtime, explore Lexington (or your community) for all its glory!
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