Lexington, Kentucky’s City Hall

The old Lafayette Hotel and present City Hall. Author’s Collection.

Lexington, Kentucky may be well on its way to a new city hall. Four developers have submitted proposals to city officials and three of the developers have released renderings of their proposals to the public (pictures below). With city offices spread across five downtown buildings, Lexington has been considering moving its city hall for many years. If city hall moves, it certainly won’t be the first time in history. Here are a few locales that have served as Lexington’s city hall.

Early City Hall Sites 

In 1845, the Lexington Observer and Reporter noted that “Mayor and council have entered into arrangements with owners of old medical hall to be converted into a city hall.” City offices moved into this facility located at the northwest corner of Market and Church streets along with other entities such as the library and the Odd Fellows.1

Market House (Jackson Hall) and home of city hall from 1880-1929. University of Kentucky Libraries.

In 1879, the Lexington Transcript reported that Phelix Lundin had submitted plans for a new market house which would house the council chamber on the second floor. At the end of July 1879, the cornerstone was laid for the construction of the “new market house and city hall.” By May of the following year, the city hall was occupied in the market house known as Jackson Hall. It was located in a block bordered by Limestone, Upper, Vine, and Water streets. The city sold Jackson Hall in 1941. whereupon it was almost immediately demolished to make way for a parking lot and later for the widening of Vine Street.

Long before selling, however, city hall had already moved.

In 1924, Leon K. Frankel and John J. Curtis were hired by the city to design a new city hall.  It was located on the east side of Walnut Street (later renamed  Martin Luther King Blvd) at Barr Street. According to Clay Lancaster in his book Vestiges of the Venerable City, a widening of Barr Street was completed “for an impressive approach” “with a large strip being taken from the front yards of the ante-bellum houses on the block.” The new city hall was completed in 1928 at a total price tag of $319,000.

Municipal Building, Lexington’s city hall from 1928-1983. University of Kentucky Libraries.

Lafayette Hotel

The twelve-story Lafayette Hotel was completed by 1920 and for forty years was a premier Lexington institution. By the early 1960s, the hostelry had shuttered and the building was converted into offices.  Wrote the Herald-Leader in 1983:

After opening with a gala ball in 1920, the Lafayette Hotel provided elegant lodging, refined dining and a posh place for proms for decades. The hotel closed in 1960 and served as a private office building for 20 years. But at the Lexington-Fayette government Center, the high-rise at 200 East Main Street is recapturing its public identity.

The move has long been described as temporary, however, and there have been growing discussions over the past decades about a new home for city offices. Today, the discussions are beginning to materialize.

The Proposals

As noted above, there are four submitted proposals for a new city hall. In determining which one you prefer, think about the criteria set forth by the retired dean of UK’s architecture school, Anthony Eardley, who was profiled by Tom Eblen in a 2016 column published in the Herald-Leader. In anticipation of this very project, Eardley considered (and found examples worldwide) of what makes a good – and a bad – city hall. His findings are accessible at http://eardleydesign.com/halls/.
Proposal by Municipal Consolidation and Construction which would locate City Hall on Main Street just
to the east of the Lexington Public Library’s Central Branch.
Proposal by CRM Companies which would locate City Hall on Midland Avenue in the former
Lexington Herald-Leader building. 
Proposal by Cowgirl Partners which would locate City Hall on Corral Street at Martin Luther King Blvd
There is a proposal from one more developer (Pure Development) for which there are no public details available. I’ll update this post from time to time as more information becomes available.