ThenNow: Historic Clark Hardware Store becoming Shakespeare & Co.

367-369 West Short Street (Dec. 2011)
Photo by Jason E. Sloan
367-369 West Short St. (ca. 1939)
Photo by Robert J. Long

Spring 2012 will welcome a new restaurant to downtown Lexington: Shakespeare and Company.  A chain based in the United Arab Emirate of Dubai, Shakespeare and Co. aims to "provide a cozy, chic ambiance reminiscent of Victorian elegance" with a menu that includes English, American and Lebanese food.  Their choice of the circa 1870 Clark Hardware Building is not only a prominent location at the intersection of West Short and Broadway, but an apt one to represent the Victorian Era.

1907 Sanborn Map of Lexington
(Source: KDL)
Italianate Commercial in style, the Clark Hardware Building housed multiple grocers from 1873-1902: including Bryant, Hardesty & Co.; Foushee, Cassell & Co.; Hughes and Cassell; and Frank Maer Dry Goods.  From 1906 through 1921, the Home Furniture Co. was the primary occupant and longest tenant until the building's namesake took over in 1923. The Clark Hardware Co. occupied 367-369 West Short Street for 44 years (through 1967).

The 1979 National Register Nomination Form notes that the third story was never finished; most likely intentionally, as it provided ample storage for the string of businesses housed downstairs.  As can be seen in the current and historic photos, the exterior of the building has changed very little and maintains many of the original elements, such as a prominent cornice, arched windows, and glass shopfront.  The building significantly contributes to Lexington's history and architecture downtown.

While the exterior of the building has remained mostly intact, the interior has been changed multiple times.  Although the 1979 National Register Nomination noted that the first and third floors were fairly intact at that time (especially with the third floor being unfinished and used for storage), Shakespeare and Co. is undertaking significant renovations, including the removal of a rear wall on the first floor.  With their focus on "Victorian chic," the restaurant will certainly aim to recall the time in which the building was built -- with the commercial aspect a bit more behind-the-scenes than when Clark Hardware was tenant.

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