Demolishing Little Addie Street

440 Addie Street, Lexington, Kentucky. Fayette PVA

The African-American enclave within Lexington known as Smithtown today has a recognizable name thanks to the brown ale from West Sixth Brewing Company that bears its name (it’s a tasty brew at 4.5%).

But the name Smithtown references a historically African-American neighborhood roughly bounded by Broadway, Jefferson, Fourth and Sixth streets. One of the streets within those bounds is Smith Street which runs between Fourth and Fifth streets.

Another short alley (Addie Street) only runs half that distance and is located to the east of Smith Street but to the west of Bourbon Street. I previously raised concerns about the demolition of vernacular architecture, like shotguns, in this immediate vicinity. In that post, I connected an affiliate of Transylvania University to the demolitions occurring as the school tries to increase its geographic footprint on Lexington’s northside.

452 Addie Street, Lexington, Kentucky. Fayette PVA.

Now, two new demolition permits have recently emerged on Addie Street. Both of these permits were sought by the new owner of the properties: Transylvania University.

Transylvania University’s demolition permits are for the addresses of 440 Addie Street and 452 Addie Street.

As noted above, this little alley is situated in the heart of the historically African-American Smithtown neighborhood. In 1995, the Herald-Leader wrote that Smithtown was “a historically black part of the Northside that is bordered roughly by North Broadway and West Fourth, Jefferson and West Sixth streets — has some crime, just like anywhere else. But it’s also filled with watchful residents who know who belongs in the neighborhood and who doesn’t.”

A search for “Addie Street” largely reveals the same pattern of crime referenced in the 1995 story, and the area has long had a rugged past. A search of historic newspapers indicates few references to this poor street and most relate to crime.

In 1940, Quincy Shelton was accused of at least two counts of vehicular manslaughter (a hit and run on Leestown Road which killed a 31 year old Woodford County farmer and a 24 year old painter from Lexington). Shelton actually resided at 452 Addie Street, one of the houses being demolished by Transylvania. Shelton was a school bus driver for the Fayette County.

1907 Sanborn Map which reflected the referenced properties, but not Addie Street itself. UK Libraries.

As for the shotguns themselves, the records of the Fayette PVA suggest construction in 1898 with square footages under 1,000 each. The 1907 Sanborn, the earliest to record the fire insurance of these parts of Lexington, reveals that 440 was likely 6 Addie Street. 452 Addie Street was previously numbered either 3 or 4. Addie Street itself, however, didn’t appear on the Sanborn map though it is clear that six shotguns were constructed by that point along the narrow path which would have later been made more accessible by a demolition at 516 West Fifth (see image above).

The Smithtown neighborhood grew following the Civil War; it was the home of many former slaves who now worked for a small wage, often for their former masters. Although once plentiful, the homes of these occupants are quickly disappearing.

For the most part, the loss of any one shotgun structure is not necessarily a loss of historical proportion (there are, of course, exceptions). Sometimes, they are just “old buildings.” But one must consider the sheer volume of shotguns that once existed in Lexington; they are becoming a dying breed. And their collective loss is of historic proportion.