Lexington's Newest Disappearing Neighborhood

Site of Shriners Hospital on South Limestone. Author's Collection.

Groundbreaking on Shriner's Hospital. U. of Ky.
Earlier this week, the University of Kentucky and the local Shriners Hospital for Children broke ground for a new hospital facility that will be located opposite South Limestone from the UK Medical Center in Lexington. The project is anticipated to take 22 months to complete and the cost is estimated at $47 million. The new Shriners facility will replace the existing 27-acre complex on Richmond Road that opened in 1955, though the Shriners began operating a hospital in Lexington in 1926. (That original Shriner's Hospital was adjacent to and was later acquired by Good Samaritan Hospital at Maxwell and Harrison (later South Martin Luther King Blvd) streets. Good Samaritan was itself acquired by UK Healthcare in 2007.)

In 1925, Mrs. F. J. Conn "announced plans of constructing 100 homes on her property." That property includes the site of the new Shriners hospital as well as the existing UK Healthcare parking structure.

Mrs. Conn's husband, Frederick J. Conn, was the superintendent of bridges for the Southern Railway Company. Although the couple hailed from Illinois, Lexington city directories show them in Lexington since at least 1898. Mrs. Conn died in 1934 and Mr. Conn followed her in death in 1935.

He had escaped death on at least one occasion before: in 1908 he was electrocuted "at the overhead bridge on the Frankfort pike" according to the Lexington Leader.

Conn's farm was bounded on the north by Transcript Avenue, the west by the then-Southern Railway tracks, and the east by South Limestone Street. A new street was constructed through the property; that street was named after Conn Terrace after the property's owners.

According to an article in the Lexington Leader in August 1925, the development was not made for profit but the homes would be "sold at cost for the benefit of people in moderate circumstances who wish homes of their home." Homes were to be built "as fast as there is demand for them."

Birdseye View of South Limestone Dwellings. Author's Collection.
The area was not within the city limits at the time and a 1939 real property survey of Lexington identifies a portion (though not all) of the development within the city limits. In the early to mid-1950s, Lexington expanded its boundaries southward to include South Limestone street from the then-city limits at Conn Terrace all the way to Rosemont Garden.

Before ground was broken on the site, I photographed the fa├žades of each of these 1925-1950 dwellings that would in short time be lost from the fabric of Lexington. This is Lexington's Newest Disappearing Neighborhood.

Conn Terrace

Birdseye View of 102-106 Conn Terrace. Author's Collection.
The five dwellings on Conn Terrace, all part of the Conn Terrace development discussed above, have the loveliest scale of those being demolished. Of particular interest to me are the quaint structures at 102 and 106 Conn Terrace.
102 Conn Terrace. Author's Collection.

104 Conn Terrace. Author's Collection.

106 Conn Terrace. Author's Collection. 106 Conn Terrace, ca. 1949. UK Libraries.

108 Conn Terrace. Author's Collection.

110 Conn Terrace. Author's Collection.

State Street

The three structures on State Street, as well as the three on Limestone Street, stood outside of the Conn plat. Each, however, offers a unique testimony and design to this old neighborhood.
109 State Street. Author's Collection.
Kentucky Kernel Article on
Passing of Helen Stanley.
U. of Ky. Libraries.

109 State Street was the home of the University's Recorder, Helen Stanley, from 1925 until the time of her death in 1937. Prior to her appointment as Recorder, she had worked in the registrar's office since 1919. According to Prof. Gillis, Ms. Stanley was among one of the best recorders in the United States.

It is worth noting that State Street wasn't always a site of off-campus housing and celebratory couch burnings. This area off of North Elizabeth Street was a middle-class neighborhood that offered "live where you work" opportunity to employees at the University.

For the past few decades, the presence of more and more students have made this area undesirable for the middle class. As the owner-occupied generation moved away, properties were sold to landlords. Some, though not all, of these landlords have added unsightly additions that irreversibly altered the neighborhood's character long. Some, though not all, of the student residents exacerbated the problems of blight and decay.

While both the loss of these homes is disheartening and the continued "creep" of University developments is concerning, the use of this site by the Shriner's simply makes sense.

113 State Street. Author's Collection.

119  State Street. Author's Collection.

123 State Street. Author's Collection.

Limestone Street

Finally, note how different the three structures on Limestone Street are from the two roads running perpendicular to it. While a few of the structures on Conn Terrace and State Street have the scale of those on South Limestone, the dwellings facing the main road all were two-and-one-half stories to create a stronger presence along the highway.
1037 S. Limestone. Author's Collection.

 1041 S. Limestone. Author's Collection.

1045 S. Limestone. Author's Collection.