Upcoming #BGTdetours at UK's School of Art and Visual Studies Building

On Bolivar Street, impressive old tobacco facilities still stand harkening back to an era not so long ago in Lexington's history when burley tobacco was a chief industry. Although burley tobacco is still grown in the region, it is not the cash crop it once was. Most of the buildings necessary for the industry have been abandoned, demolished, or torn down.

The University of Kentucky acquired one of these old tobacco facilities in 2011 to house its School of Art and Visual Studies (SAVS) program. Beginning in the fall of 2015, students will move into their new facility on Bolivar Street. Previously, SAVS had been located in another tobacco facility - the Reynolds Building - that is located at the end of Scott Street. (Sadly, it is anticipated that the Reynolds Building will soon be demolished.)

Prior to any construction of the building that would become SAVS, the site was the home of the Lexington Spoke Company's manufacturing facilities. The 1890 Sanborn map, below, shows the facility as it stood on Bolivar Street. The empty space along Bolivar was then a cemetery, already kept in poor condition. And the pond was the location of many Christian baptisms.

Sanborn Map of the Site, ca. 1890 and prior to construction of re-handling plant. University of Kentucky Libraries.
SAVS moves into a building that was constructed in three main phases. The three-story 1899 structure was the first tobacco re-handling plant built by a major national tobacco manufacturer in Lexington. The company was Liggett and Meyers. A 1903 addition was "constructed of brick, and consists of 21 bays fronting Bolivar Street, 200 feet long and 80 feet wide." This 1903 addition with its 21 bays fronts Bolivar Street to the northwest of the 1899 structure.

In 1904, Ligget and Meyers also constructed extant tobacco warehouse that stands on the southwest corner of Bolivar and South Upper (this old warehouse is not attached to the rehandling facilities and is not part of SAVS). In 1916, a final addition to the complex was added parallel to and immediately behind the 1903 addition.

The plant remained in operation until the 1960s and was sold by the tobacco company in 1973. It served as office space and storage for many years until it was converted into loft apartments in the early 2000s.

According to the property's application for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, the plant was built in an area that would become the city's central tobacco warehouse district. Near the railroad, the decision to locate here made Liggett and Meyer "the leader in establishing a major architectural, cultural, economic and social trend in Lexington's history, all centered on tobacco."

And now, UK's SAVS building will be a place where the University's art program can thrive. As the Newtown Pike extension expands through the area, SAVS will become a gateway to the University of Kentucky.

BGT deTour

July 1, 2015
Gather at 5:30 p.m.

UK School of Arts and
Visual Studies
236 Bolivar Street, Lexington

Free and open to the public.