Inactive Fourth Street Church has Multiple Denominations in its History

St. Andrews Episcopal Mission Church – Lexington, Ky.

A carriage factory on West Fourth Street served as a house of worship for Lexington’s black population from the time Br. Thomas Phillips and his former master, John Brand, opened the Antioch Christian Church in April 1851. Brother Phillips departed this world in 1859, but his congregation continued to grow. In 1874, the old carriage factory was torn down and the congregation built a structure of its own.

One of the most impressive church buildings built for Lexington’s black community immediately following the Civil War, the structure was a simple brick three-bay church with a simple rose window above the inscription, “… the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26, KJV)

In only a few short years, though, the Antioch (Colored) Christian Church found it necessary to find larger quarters and they relocated to a newly constructed church on Second Street. Thereafter, that church would move again (to Constitution Avenue) but would remain known as the (East) Second Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The old Fourth Street house of worship would not remain empty for long. Thomas Underwood Dudley, the second Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky, sought to expand the reach of his Episcopal Church. Overcoming many racist, segregationist views as well as the ghost of his own past as a Confederate veteran, Bishop Dudley pursued an integrated church: “God hath made of one blood all nations of men.”

The Episcopal diocese constructed a new church in the 1950s, but the mission founded by Dudley remained active until that point. Today, the old church structure is inactive and is used by its present owners for storage.

Sources: East Second Street History; NRHP

Two Churches and a School Added to the National Register

St. James AME Church – Danville, Ky.
Source: NRHP File, Ky. Heritage Council.

On January 23, 2013, the National Park Service approved three Kentucky sites for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Two of the properties are historic African-American churches in Danville while the third is a historically black high school in Hopkinsville that has been closed since the 1980s.

Danville’s Second Street Christian Church and St. James AME Church remain as the town’s only African American congregations meeting in their historic buildings. Previously, the area of Danville was predominately African-American, but 1970-era urban renewal decimated the neighborhood identity.

St. James AME, 124 E. Walnut St., was organized shortly after the Civil War and the present building was completed in 1882 in the Gothic Revival style. Alterations through 1922, including the loss of a bell tower, largely changed the style of the structure to one characterized as Colonial Revival. It is the oldest continuously used African American church in Danville. (NRHP File 12001198, courtesy Ky. Heritage Council).

Second Street Christian Church – Danville, Ky.
Source: NRHP File, Ky. Heritage Council.

The Second Street Christian Church, 228 S. 2nd St., was erected in 1908 out of the newly popular concrete block. This inexpensive building material could be given texture through the use of stamped block faces which were generally available, including through the Sears Roebuck catalogue. With the exception of the obviously filled-in arched window (done in the 1960s), the exterior of the church remains largely unchanged. Originally constructed as the New Mission Baptist Church, the building was purchased by the Colored Christian Church (now the Second Street Christian Church) in 1927. (NRHP File 12001197, courtesy Ky. Heritage Council).

Attucks High School – Hopkinsville, Ky.
Source: Crispus Attucks Comm. Assoc.

Hopkinsville’s first African American school, the Attucks High School, 712 1st St., was built in 1906. In 1957, Christian County schools began the integration process which resulted in the conversion of this building to an integrated middle school in 1967. Since 1988, it has been vacant though an effort is underway to convert the historic structure into a community center. The materials of the two-story brick school were reclaimed from the Clay Street School and reformed into the present largely Italian Renaissance style structure at a cost of $17,640. The architect was John T. Waller and construction was completed by the Forbes Manufacturing Company  (NRHP File 12001199, courtesy Ky. Heritage Council).

Kinkead House, home of Living Arts and Science Center, ready for contemporary architecture addition

Artistic Rendition of LASC Addition
The Martin Luther King neighborhood is the planned home for what is to be one of Lexington’s most contemporary pieces of architecture. On November 16, 2011 the Living Arts and Science Center (LASC) began a campaign to raise nearly $5 million for the construction of an 11,000-square-foot addition that will more than double the size of its current structure, the historic George B. Kinkead House. Designed by Louisville’s award-winning De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop, the project is not the first to change the antebellum building – though arguably it is the most drastic in scale and design.

LASC Jan 2012 (Photo by Jason Sloan)
Built in 1847, the Kinkead House was initially – and still recognizably – designed in the Greek Revival form. Dick DeCamp suggested that popular local architect Thomas Lewinski (responsible for the extensive Italianate alterations to Latrobe’s Pope Villa) designed the mansion for Kinkead, as well as the Italianate changes incorporated sometime after 1853. George Kinkead, lawyer to Abraham Lincoln and family, was one of Lexington’s most forward-thinking citizens.

Kinkead was pro-Union and anti-slavery. His action spoke loudly on his beliefs: he provided 11 acres of land around his home to freed slaves. The area became known as Kinkeadtown and was almost exclusively African-American for nearly 100 years. Today, Kinkeadtown comprises the heart of the East End, though there is scant evidence other than the expansive mansion of the old community.

Location of New Addition
(Photo by Jason Sloan)

The Kinkead family owned the house for 134 years prior to donating it in 1981 to the LASC which had been leasing the property since 1970. The mission of the Living Arts and Science Center is to encourage “participation in art and science by engaging the community through discovery, exploration and creativity.” This mission should be advanced by the extensive addition that will include a planetarium, arts gallery, and recording studio, among others.

The Kinkead House is among Lexington’s most historically significant buildings. And not just for its architecture, but for its associated history and its current owner-occupany, the Living Arts and Science Center. With the new LASC addition, the architects have respected of the height and scale of the current structure, though Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen notes that it “is really a separate building, tucked along the south side and back of the Kinkead House.” Hopefully, the new addition provides a clear link between the building’s past and help progress the nonprofit’s mission as place of progressive and creative education.

NoD: A Maysville Mansion, Phillips Folly

Maysville, KY
Phillips Folly – Maysville, Ky.

William B. Phillips began construction in 1825 of what was considered to be the largest home in Maysville. With twelve rooms, including six bedrooms, the home was built on a mortarless foundation – the condition of which continues to be examined for its quality. Without a doubt, Phillips was excited about his mansion; it is altogether likely that when the Marquis de Lafayette visited Maysville in 1825 that Phillips, who was in the receiving party, took the opportunity to show the Frenchman his plans. Yet, excitement is insufficient to bring about completion.

In 1828, the house was not completed and Phillips had insufficient funds to finish. Townspeople referred to the property as “Phillips’ Folly” for he had built beyond his means a home too grand. Without a word, Phillips left Maysville only to return two years later having won sufficient monies while gambling in New Orleans to finish his home. The house was finally completed in 1831 and is an amalgam of several architectural styles: a Federal façade, a Georgian two-story portico, stepped parapets in the “Dutch” or German tradition, windows attributed to the Greek Revivalist style and other qualities introduced after Phillips’ years in New Orleans.

When the cholera epidemic of 1833 swept through the region, it took with it the first mayor of the Maysville; Phillips was chosen to become the second mayor of Maysville. In 1838, Phillips’ sold his “folly” to John Armstrong who died in the home in 1851. It is said that his ghost, and that of his laborador, still haunt the Sutton Street mansion.

Maysville, KYArmstrong’s son, Francis Armstrong, acquired the property after his father died. Francis was believed to have been an operative on the underground railroad. In a house where basement wooden cell likely originally held captive slaves, the mansion became a symbol of freedom as the last stop for the weary before crossing the Ohio River into freedom. A tunnel from the home to the river would have brought the slaves to a small dinghy in which to cross the river.

During occupancy by the Finch family from 1890 to 1894, a man named Pearce visited the house and is said to have committed suicide there. Others, however, have suggested that suicide was simply a cover for Pearce’s death: he had been killed in a duel at a time when dueling had been made illegal in the Commonwealth. Those who have seen his apparition have also heard the formalities of dueling in the back stairs.

After the Fitch family left, Dr. John Reed moved his family from the small Mason County hamlet of Minerva to Phillips Folly in  1894. Dr. Reed established a medical practice in the basement. His son, Stanley, was ten years old when the family moved in; young Stanley would leave for school eight years later and would eventually be appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court.

With all its history, Phillips Folly is open for tours particularly because of its role as a station on the Underground Railroad.

Maysville OnlineNRHP; Precious TimesWikipedia

NoD: Jessamine’s Olde Hall Church

Camp Nelson
Hall Church – Hall (Jessamine Co.), Ky.

After the Civil War, many of the African American refugees who had been housed at Camp Nelson set roots in a small community nearby. Known originally as Ariel, this small community has remained through the years. Soon after the war, it was renamed Hall after Captain Theron Hall who had served as Chief Quartermaster for Camp Nelson and as superintendent of the refugee camp.

John Fee, who after the war purchased many acres of the Camp Nelson site, came to Camp Nelson in 1864. A minister and founder of Berea College, Fee worked with Captain Hall to establish this community for the refugees. While Hall favored the construction of barracks, Rev. Fee believed that cottages for the families would provide a more comfortable living. An agreement was devised that incorporated both structures types as well as a larger “home”. The community was built and many of its residents remained after the War — Fee sold his land at a dramatically reduced price to the former slaves in acre and half-acre lots.

Camp Nelson
Interior of Hall Church

Here, Rev. Fee also founded Ariel Academy, which was supported by the American Missionary Association, and the small church. The coed school was integrated until 1898 when whites stopped attending. By the 1920s, only girls attended.  Hall began to decline shortly after World War II, though there are some remains of its historic past.

This quaint church, built in the late 1800s, no longer has a congregation but is often used for community events. In lieu of religious scenes, a mural depicting the old double-barreled covered Camp Nelson bridge hangs in the front of the meeting house. The church was restored by the Jessamine County Fiscal Court in 2005.

Recently, country singer Shooter Jennings (Waylon’s son) shot part of the music video for “Real Me” at the Olde Hall Church, with additional scenes shot in both Greensburg and Campbellsville. “Real Me” will be on the to-be-released album, “Family Man” which is expected to be released in January.

Also, on the first Sunday in December, the Olde Hall Church is used for an annual community Christmas concert that features traditionally African-American church choirs. It is a great holiday tradition in a beautiful, historic setting.

Sources: Camp NelsonJessamine Co; LHLUIUC

walkLEX: From Athletics to Arts, 161 North Mill Always a Community Center

Lexington, Ky.
Arts Place, 161 N. Mill St., – Lexington, Ky.

The beaux arts building at the northwest corner of Mill and Church streets in downtown Lexington as always served the role as community center since its cornerstone was laid on May 24, 1904. Built by the Young Men’s Christian Association to serve the Lexington community, the building opened to the public on April 18, 1905. Days earlier, a separate organization was organized and operated from a room inside the North Mill Y: a “Colored YMCA” – a separate organization with separate membership and leadership based solely on color. Today, this remains only a footnote in the history of a terrific Christian organization, but a tidbit that reminds us that segregation used to divide all parts of life. (In 1907, the Colored YMCA organization moved from the White Y and into the old Lexington Press building on Cheapside).

The YMCA has always been concerned with both the physical and spiritual health of its members. And athletics and exercise are the keystone of the membership’s physical health.

In the earliest days of the University of Kentucky’s storied men’s basketball program, the Kentucky Wildcats took the court three times in the Y’s gymnasium. In the first matchup on January 11, 1906, Kentucky was pitted against Kentucky University (now Transylvania) and Kentucky won the matchup, though the score was never recorded. Kentucky would lose games in 1907 and 1908 against the Lexington YMCA, 22-41 and 19-29.

On-the-court basketball was not the only kind played at the Y. A Lexington Leader article from 1906 revealed facts about “water basketball” – “Water basketball has also been introduced. The rules are the same as in the usual game, except that the players are required to remain in the water, which at one end of the pool permits them to stand but at the other compels them to swim.” The same article described other amenities at the pool: “The coolness of the pool at the Y. M. C. A. and the recent addition of a slippery chute, the chute and the fine springing board are alluring an increasing number of the members to enjoy amphibious sport.

LexingtonIn 1909, the YMCA experienced a revenue crunch which almost caused the building to be sold. Though the building cost only $40,000 to construct, the fundraising drive required another $55,000. Over a period of a few months, these funds were raised. A clock was installed in front of the old courthouse; it was updated daily to reflect the status of the effort.

Eventually, the YMCA required additional space and the building was assumed by the YWCA. This community center shifted its role from emphasizing athletics to emphasizing the arts when it was acquired in 1979 by the Lexington Council for the Arts for $150,000. From 1980 to 1983, a $1.4 million renovation transformed the facility but has retained the beautiful Beaux arts architecture. From this location, ArtsPlace has provided studio, performance and rehearsal space to numerous groups.

Sources: Big Blue History;

walkLEX: Northside Neighborhood Association Celebrates Its Golden Anniversary

263 North Broadway - Lexington, Ky.
263 North Broadway – Lexington, Ky.

Last week on one of my walking lunches, I couldn’t help but notice a few brightly colored flags in front of several houses in the area around Third Street just west of Broadway. It was not until Friday that I discovered that the flags marked sites on the  Northside Neighborhood Association walking tour in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the association. Of course, the neighborhood and its homes have existed for a much longer period.

When Lexington was originally platted, the area was divided into five acre lots. But by the 1810s, Lexington was beginning to grow northward toward what is now Transylvania University. In 1830, Transylvania University relocated its campus across Third Street to its present location and Lexington continued to grow in her direction. The Northside Neighborhood is expansive – reaching from Newtown Pike to Limestone and from Church Street to north of Seventh. Because of its geographic diversity, Northside also includes a broad variety of socioeconomic classes, architectural styles and historical communities within its bounds.

Prior to the Civil War, African American enclaves grew along College, Henry, and Miller Streets, but blacks (both freed and slave) generally lived dispersed among their white neighbors. After the War, African American urban clusters such as Brucetown, Goodloetown and Taylortown arose as Lexington became more segregated. A black Catholic parish, St. Peter Claver, opened in 1887 to serve these communities and remains a vibrant parish today at Fourth and Jefferson.

In the 1880s and 1890s, many of the old large five acre tracts were opened up to speculation, construction, and a growing population. In turn-of-the-century Fayette and Elsmere Parks, lumber companies built quality homes with architectural detail but without the without a commissioned architect. These were truly some of Lexington’s first “suburbs.”

It has been noted that both the black urban clusters and the predominately white suburbs were both developed off of the major roadways, yet the former occupied the valleys between the more-elevated suburb.

Interspersed among the homes were various commercial enterprises, be it groceries, restaurants, tailors or saloons and many of the old storefronts remain. And infill continued so that the Neighborhood contains examples not only of Federal and Victorian architecture, but also contains homes in the bungalow and arts and crafts style. Today, Miller Street is being redeveloped with townhouses and some quasi-modern architecture. I never have really considered the size and scope of Northside because it contains so much; I have hardly scratched the surface. I guess I know where I’ll be walking…

Sources: National Register (Listing and Expansion); Hat/Tip: Herald-Leader.

walkLEX: Soup Perkins Alley and the Last “Old-Time Southern Negro Jockey”

Soup Perkins Alley - Lexington, Ky.
The new “Soup Perkins Aly” in Lexington, Ky.

There is a good reason why I’ve never noticed Soup Perkins Alley before. It’s because it didn’t exist a month ago. On May 5, 2011, Mayor Gray signed Res. 152-2011 which, in part, renamed a portion of Morris Alley to Soup Perkins Alley. But who is Soup Perkins?


James “Soup” Perkins was a jockey who began racing at age 11 at a northern Kentucky race track situated in Latonia (near Covington and Newport) [*]. In 1895, he rode Halma to a win in the Kentucky Derby. After the race, the 90-pound African-American was asked his age; he replied, “going on sixteen.” At 15, Soup Perkins and Alonzo Clayton share distinction of being the youngest jockeys to win the Kentucky Derby.

Perkins got his nickname because he was known to love a bowl of soup. And he could afford to feed his small frame; his riding contract paid $5,000 annually. This is equal to an annual income of over $600,000 today!

In 1880, James Perkins was born in Lexington to former slaves of Major Flournoy. On the opening day of races at the old Kentucky Association track, October 16, 1893, Perkins rode five horses to victory before “a large crowd.” [Lexington Morning Transcript, p. 1. 10/17/1893]. The morning paper reported again on Perkins’ victories a few days later: “James “Soup” Perkins rode 5 winners yesterday and finished second on another mount. He is a 13-year-old colored boy.” [Lexington Morning Transcript, p. 1. 10/21/1893].

After his derby win in 1895, however, things began to unravel for Perkins. In 1897, Newport (Ky.) racing officials disqualified him from taking any mounts. [Lexington Leader, p. 2. 5/2/1897]. Later that year, his brother, Frank Perkins, “became suddenly insane” while lodging in Cincinnati. [Lexington Leader, p. 5. 10/9/1897].

By 1899, James “Soup” Perkins’ racing career was over and was described in the past tense: “at one time one of the most prominent jockeys in the West.” [Lexington Leader, p. 4. 8/25/1899]. His death was reported by the Lexington Leader in a section entitled Colored Notes: “James S. Perkins, the famous jockey, better known as “Soup” Perkins, departed this life Wednesday, August 10, 71 York street, Hamilton, Canada, at the Daniel Hotel. He was aged 33 years, five months, 12 days. The immediate cause of his death was heart failure.” [Lexington Leader, p.7. 8/21/1911]. His body was brought back to Lexington for burial at what is now the African Cemetery No. 2.

With his death, it was pronounced that “the last of the old-time Southern Negro jockeys passed away.” [Lexington Leader, p. 10. 9/12/1911.].

NoD: Margaret Garner (Kentucky Chautaqua)

The Bluegrass Trust hosts a monthly brown bag lunch lecture series at the John Hunt Morgan House. In celebration of Black History Month, this month’s event was held at the Downtown Arts Center and was a live one-person Kentucky Chataqua show from the Kentucky Humanities Council

The Modern Medea, by Thomas Satterwhite Noble

Margaret Garner was a slave born in Boone County, Kentucky. Light-skinned, she was likely the daughter of her master – John P. Gaines (who was appointed by Pres. Zachary Taylor to be the governor of the Oregon Territory). When Gaines left her Oregon, he sold his farm, Maplewood (to which this post is geotagged), to his brother Archibald Gaines.

Archibald was a cruel master and ultimately, Margaret sought to escape with her three children. In the snowy winter of 1856, she escaped and crossed the frozen Ohio River, but was ultimately captured. Before her capture, however, she slit the throat of one of her children (she was stopped before she could kill the others) because she believed her children would be better in heaven than back in slavery. According to the story, Archibald was the father of each of her children and she didn’t want her daughters to be assaulted by their white masters.

Tried in Covington (rather than in Ohio), Garner was returned to slavery and sold down the river. The story of Margaret Garner was immediately well-known as it was publicized by both abolitionists (decrying the pathology of slavery) and pro-slavery forces (claiming that slaves were all subhuman). [*] The painting above, The Modern Medea, by Thomas Satterwhite Noble was inspired by Garner and was painted in 1867.  Her story was popularized again by Toni Morrison’s book, Beloved. Former UK professor research Garner, writing Modern Madea. There is also an opera about Garner which can be heard on NPR.

Nat Northington

At the Kentucky-Charleston Southern football game, I examined the program and read about UK’s “History and Traditions.” I noted one I had not seen before: Nat Northington. 

Nat Northington

Nat Northington was the first African-American football player to sign with an SEC school (UK) when he did so in 1965. Two African-Americans signed with Coach Charlie Bradshaw to the 1967 squad, the other being Greg Page. Page was paralyzed during a preseason practice and died from complications 38 days later; the university opened a residential apartment community bearing Page’s name in the 1979.

As a result of Page’s injury, only Northington would play football for the Wildcats during the 1967 season. He therefore became the first African-American to play in an SEC game when Ole Miss came to Lexington’s Stoll Field on September 30, 1967. It would take another three years before UK’s basketball team would sign an African-American player.

Sources: ESPN, UKAthletics, Lex H-L. Photo: KYVL.