ACTION ALERT: Peoples Bank May Be Saved With Your Help

The Peoples Bank on South Broadway in Lexington was on Demolition Watch a couple of weeks ago today. During the day, some equipment was rolled onto the site to begin demolition but negotiations with the property owner and preservationists ensued and the property owner gave a promise to let the building stand for a 3-week period while a plan could be developed.

We have one week left. Click here to help.

Here’s what’s happened in the past two weeks. The Warwick Foundation, a non-profit committed to promoting the legacy of Clay Lancaster, has offered up a commitment of up to $300,000 to move and relocate the incredible mid-century Peoples Bank.

In the words of the Warwick Foundation:

The Warwick Foundation wants to transform the iconic mid-century modern Peoples Bank building in downtown Lexington into a Peoples Portal to the Rupp District. The Peoples will be razed in its current location, but the owner will donate it to Warwick if we can move it to a new site. We are asking the Lexington Center – a government body – to allow us to move the Peoples to West High Street, across from Rupp Arena, on a parcel Rupp District designers have suggested.

The cost is $850,000. Warwick has committed $300,000 to move the building and we need to match those funds with $250,000 in donations from the community. The Peoples Portal will be by the People for the People! Mayor Gray has included $150,000 in the Urban County Government budget, now being reviewed by Council. Please ask your council member to support Mayor Gray’s funding! The balance would come from the Lexington Center, to improve the receiver site.

Warwick will operate the Peoples Portal as an enduring monument to the values of respect and inclusion, partnering with nonprofits and universities throughout the area to offer programs on those themes.

Please give what you can – in any amount! If enough money isn’t raised or the receiver site falls through all donations will be returned. Your donation is tax-deductible and will mean the difference between whether this building finds an important new function serving the community or is demolished.

The Warwick Foundation has answered some FAQ about the structure, the process, and the plan here.

So here is the People’s Portal: CLICK HERE TO GIVE.

Since the portal began accepting donations, over $33,000 has been raised but there is much more needed in order to match the Warwick Foundation’s donation. You can follow the status of the giving on the Facebook page, People for the Peoples.

ACTION ALERT: Critical Meeting Tonight (May 12) Will Decide Fate of Harrison County’s Ridgeway

Although a vote to demolish the Handy House (aka Ridgeway) was taken last November by the Harrison County Fiscal Court, the demolition of the historic home (located in a city-county park) requires approval of both public bodies. A joint public meeting tonight of the Fiscal Court and the City of Cynthiana will provide citizens with the opportunity to show your support for preserving our history! The meeting is May 12, 2015 at 6:30 pm in the old Harrison County Court House on Main Street!

If you can’t make the meeting, please stand up and be counted through this online petition:

The home was listed earlier this year by the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the 11 Endangered Properties in Their 11th Hour. Last November, Cheri Daniels penned a guest post here that told the history of this important structure. Here are some highlights of that history:

The history of the house is quite remarkable. As mentioned above, the original owner was U.S. Congressman and War of 1812 Veteran, Colonel William Brown. He was an attorney and close friend of Henry Clay. Both served in the 16th Congress, which established the Missouri Compromise. Colonel Brown’s wife, Harriet Warfield, was the sister of Lexington’s Dr. Elisha Warfield. He is well known as the owner of the famed racehorse Lexington and as the physician who delivered Mary Todd Lincoln.

Ridgeway Collage by Cheri Daniels

Thus began the Brown family’s connection to the Todd/Lincoln families. As Kentuckians migrated west, many families moved into the Illinois territory. The Brown family began this move as did some of the Todds. At this time, Colonel Brown was also leaning toward an anti-slavery stance, despite owning 30 slaves at Ridgeway.

As he relocated his family, he freed his slaves and brought a few of them along to work as employed free men. The sons and nephew of the Colonel got caught up in the Black Hawk War and fought alongside another new Kentucky emigrant, Abraham Lincoln. The comrades in arms formed long lasting friendships, and Lincoln accompanied the Brown family men back to their new property to help clear it after the war, alongside Ridgeway’s former slaves.

As the years went by, evidence of Lincoln’s friendship with this family can be found in many ways.

When Lincoln was running for office for the first time in 1858, he wrote to the Colonel’s son (Capt. James N. Brown), assuring him of his stance on slavery:

I believe the declara[tion] that ‘all men are created equal’ is the great fundamental principle upon which our free institutions rest.

After Lincoln’s assassination, James was personally selected by Mary Todd Lincoln to serve as one of Abraham’s pall bearers on the final leg of the body’s journey in Springfield.

You can read the rest of Cheri’s post, which contains more background on the structure, the threats to its survival and its plan for the future by clicking here.

And remember… TONIGHT!!

If you go:
Joint Meeting of City/County Governments
Old Courthouse in Cynthiana
Main Street
6:30 p.m., May 12, 2015

If you can’t go:
please stand up and be counted through this online petition:

Finding and Discovering Eddie Street

I saw that a demolition permit had been issued for another shotgun house. This one is on Eddie Street and it was filed on Monday, May 4.

Eddie Street? In all my walks of downtown Lexington, I couldn’t recall being down Eddie Street. So I  found it on a map and headed that way. Parallel to Main Street, Eddie runs between North Limestone and Maple Avenue to the north of Seventh Street.

Eddie Street has a lot of shotguns. It was interesting how the Eddie Street shotguns have evolved over time. Some have stone façades and others have been covered in brick. Many are covered with vinyl siding, while a couple still reveal their old cedar siding.

There are also some cottages, a couple of Habitat homes, and one structure that appeared to be the street’s oldest.

165 Eddie Street, Lexington, Ky. Author’s collection.

According to the Fayette PVA, 165 Eddie Street was built in 1900 though I suspect its history is older.  At a full two stories, the structure stood out on the street (a fact aided by its vibrant blue color). One of its residents was “a United Methodist minister and Lexington civic leader” who died in the home in August 1986 according to the Herald-Leader. According to the Notable Kentucky African American Database, Rev. Horace Henry Greene was the first African American president of the Louisville Ministerial Association (1961). Five years later, he became the second African American to fill a school board seat on Lexington’s school board. He also was the first black city commissioner candidate in Lexington.

But a glance at property records indicate that the house remained in family hands for 20 years after Rev. Greene’s passing, but in a sad twist the home was lost to foreclosure in 2006. The property has exchanged hands several times since and is now owned by a landlord in Arkansas.

These once heavily owner-occupied enclaves have increasingly become rental properties owned by distant landlords.

News articles mentioning Eddie Street date back to 1902 with the vast majority of mentions being in the newspapers’ “colored” sections. One article, dating from a January 1913 edition of the Lexington Leader had the headline “Water Drives Out Residents on Eddie Street.” It read, “the recent heavy rains have caused a great gathering of the waters in the low section of the city around Eddie street, and many of the families were forced to leave their homes at a late hour Saturday night to escape being drowned in their beds.”

Flooding didn’t seem to occupy the newspapers’ references to Eddie Street over the following decades, though drug deals and arson did seem to play a major role in the neighborhood’s development.

The decline in the neighborhood gives rise to vacant and condemned properties, and thus the recent demolition permit.

The building slated for demolition, 128 Eddie Street, recently suffered from a fire. The demolition permit is made by LuigART Makers Spaces. LuigART is a “program that transforms vacant or condemned properties in the North Limestone neighborhood into affordable live/work units that are respective to the neighborhood’s historical context” according to the NoLi CDC.

NoLi CDC and LuigART are hoping to duplicate their success from shotgun renovations on York Street on Eddie Street. With an ambitious goal of rebuilding six houses on Eddie Street this summer, the work begins at 128 Eddie.

It’s here that it is worth noting (again) that a demolition permit isn’t always a bad thing. This permit indicates an investment in the community by transforming an otherwise vacant or condemned structure.

ALERT: Peoples Bank Scheduled for Morning Demolition??

A new Facebook group, People for the Peoples, has issued the following alert: “We have just been alerted that demolition of the Peoples Bank in Lexington, Kentucky is slated for the morning of Thursday, April 30.”

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We have just been alerted that demolition of the Peoples Bank in Lexington, Kentucky is slated for the morning of…
Posted by People for the Peoples on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Please follow People for the Peoples
Support their campaign for this important building!

It was only Tuesday night when the Blue Grass Trust hosted Sarah Tate and a panel discussion on midcentury modern architecture. What a travesty it would be to lose one of Lexington’s finest examples of the period at this time. And for what cause?

It is my understanding that demolition permit was issues some time ago for this property, though preservation considerations had seemed to carry the day. Just a couple weeks ago, moving the structure was discussed and promoted by several parties as it could become the home for a local non-profit. See Herald-Leader.

This was only a couple weeks ago. What has changed? Why the rush to demolish?

Give the Peoples a chance.

Some Harry, Willy Shotguns Demolished in Lexington [DEMO WATCH]

Top: 505, 511, and 513 Willy Street. Bottom: 530 and 532 Harry Street. Shotguns demolished in April 2015.
Source photos: Fayette PVA

A recent column by Tom Eblen indicates that parts of Lexington’s aged housing stock is being adapted, repurposed, and given new life. And although much of the historic qualities of the home’s being remodeled may be lost, the overall streetscape is being enhanced as are the values of the properties.

Of course, these transitions create another potential problem. Increased property values can make it too costly for longtime residents to remain in the neighborhood. As Lexington struggles with finding suitable and adequate affordable housing opportunities, a balance must be struck.

But five properties were recently not afforded such the opportunity to be rehabilitated. Three shotguns on Willy Street and another two on Harry Street have been recently demolished after earning a demo permit from the city.

Willy Street

Built in 1900, 505 Willy Street was the oldest of the 5 shotguns demolished. And at 704 square feet, it was also the largest. The other two Willy Street shotguns were each built ca. 1910 according to PVA records, though they do appear on the 1907 Sanborn map and are thus older than originally believed.

On today’s map, Willy Street is an “L” shaped road that connects Smith Street and Fifth Street. The legal description of each of these properties includes a reference to “Wallace’s Lot.” This, according to the Lexington Streetsweeper, is a reference to a plat recorded at Cabinet E-19 on May 11, 1889 by John B. Wallace as he was dividing the property on which his Sixth Street Home stood (450 W. Sixth). According to the 1907 Sanborn Map, the portion of Willy Street that intersects Smith Street used to be known as Alford Street while the portion intersecting Fifth Street was once known as Hanson Street.

The only reference found in the local newspaper archives to any of these three addresses is from the Lexington Leader‘s “colored notes” of December 3, 1912. It reads that “William Finch, a highly respected citizen, aged 37 years, who died Monday at his late residence, 513 Alford street, leaves a wife, daughter, mother, two sisters, three brothers to mourn their loss.”

Harry Street

The narrow alley of Harry Street lies behind North Limestone on the highways west side, extending for one block to both the north and south of Sixth Street. Along Harry Street, two structures were recently demolished. Both single-story structures were constructed in the shotgun style with two bays: one window and a door apiece. According to PVA records, each residence was 12′ x 48′ in dimension with both having a 5′ deep covered front porch.

In terms of layout, the Harry Street shotguns were mirror images of one another. Both were constructed in 1910 and each had a 544 square foot floor plan with four rooms including a single bedroom and a single bath.

The house at 530 Harry was nearly destroyed once before: a 1925 fire destroyed a neighboring structure and left the vacant 530 Harry in poor repair. It appears, however, to have been rebuilt following that instance. In October 1931, the “colored notes” of the Lexington Leader identify John Johnson as having lived and died at his residence in this home, noting that burial would be “in a family lot in Taterstown cemetery in Bourbon county.” A decade later, the newspapers’ “colored notes” observed the death of another of the home’s occupants: Rev. Levi Garner. Rev. Garner is interred at Highland Cemetery which today is nestled between the Forbes Rd. stockyards and the Town Branch Wastewater Treatment Plant.

[DEMO WATCH]: Decades of Demolition on Louisville’s Water Company Block Continued Over the Weekend

Demolition underway in Louisville on Saturday, April 11, 2015. The Ville Voice.

The headline from Page One reads: “All Hell is Breaking Loose in Louisville.” And although the Kaintuckeean tends to be quite Bluegrass-centric, the historic preservation news coming from the Commonwealth’s most populous place is alarming.

Metro Louisville demolished multiple structures on Third Street in downtown Louisville on Saturday, including the the Typewriter building, the Falls City Theater Company, and the Old Morrissey Garage. These properties have on multiple occasions been listed on Preservation Louisville’s Most Endangered Historic Places list.

The Morrissey Garage was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as the Bosler Garage (its original name). Built in the Romanesque Revival design in 1919, the garage has been described as “an important local example of utilitarian architecture and of the local awareness and respect for the automobile industry in the early years” of the 20th century. Jeffrey Scott Holland photographed Morrissey and shared some of the images on Unusual Kentucky.

A 1974 Sanborn map shows these structures standing alone in a sea of parking lot, but the structures have persisted. When acquired by the city of Louisville in 2009, an inspection revealed that structures were in “poor condition.” By neglect, the 2015 inspection “concluded dramatic deterioration” according to the Louisville Metro.

When I read those words, all I could think was that this is an awful case of demolition by neglect.

And it looks like Preservation Louisville agrees. Marianne Zickuhr, executive director of PL, said that “It is unfortunate that Metro could not have found a way to save these buildings before safety became an immediate issue.” She went on to say that “It’s just unfortunate that the owners were allowed to let it sit for so long and let it deteriorate.”

Yes, Louisville utilized the old ignore-the-problem-until-it-is-unsafe-and-then-tear-it-down solution to the block. And where public safety is truly at play, demolition can be the right solution. But I’ll always call for at least providing the opportunity to see what, if anything, can be salvaged.

And according to The ‘Ville Voice, that’s what preservationists in Louisville wanted. The city, developers, and preservationists had been engaged in talks about the future of the block. Within the past couple months, the parties toured the block and communicated about what could be conserved or repurposed. As late as March 13, preservationists were suggesting preservation and reuse of façades, salvaging architectural details and repurposing parts of the more structurally-sound structures remaining on the block.

Then “on April 9 the city responded to suggests provided by preservationists … with an emergency demolition press release. No warning, no notice, gave no one any time to raise funds to save what could be saved. Then radio silence.”

The silence lasted two days and was broken by the sounds of demolition.

An Archway from Morrissey Garage. The Ville Voice.

Louisville bills itself as Possibility City. But I don’t see much imagination or possibility in what happened over the weekend. Zickuhr also said that “Demolition by neglect is not a sustainable way to develop and evolve as a city.”

After this weekend’s wrecking ball, still standing on the block are the old Water Company building and the old Odd Fellows Hall. Elements of these structures could be incorporated into the development plans for the block: a 30 story Omni Hotel that will be Louisville’s third tallest skyscraper. Development costs for that project are nearly $300 million.

Preservation of the façades alone could have offered the Omni project a unique and historic streetscape along Third Street along with unique, classical entrances to its facilities. It could have been held up as a model of preservation and urban design.

But instead, Possibility City went the way of the wrecking ball.

Preservation Louisville suggests that Louisvillians let your voice be heard. Click here to find out more!

DEMO WATCH: Kentucky’s Equine History Embodied in the Robert Sanders House of Scott County

Robert Sanders House in Scott County. National Register

In 1785, at the age of 6, Polly Shipp Hawkins immigrated to Kentucky. Much later in life, she recollected her journey through life. The memoirs, written in 1868, recalled a “large brick house ‘standing near the Cane Run bridge on the turnpike to Lexington.'” It stood out in Polly’s mind as it was the first brick house she ever encountered.

And stood out it should. The home encountered by young Polly was probably the first brick structure in Scott County and one of the earliest and finest such structures in all the bluegrass.

In 1904, Scott County historian B. O. Gaines observed that the Robert Sanders house “would last forever.” But that suggestion may soon be untrue.

Although preservationists are actively working to save this two-and-one-half story piece of history, the Robert Sanders house is truly in its eleventh hour.

The home’s inclusion on the 2009 edition of the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation’s endangered property list observed both that “the exterior of this building is large and impressive” but also that “the interior is the real treasure.”

But according to the Georgetown News-Graphic, “work has already begun to strip the interior of the house.” These treasured interior elements include, according to the BGT:

The first story room to the east of the central stair hall contains the original walnut mantelpiece and paneling. Detailing includes scallops, large reeding, fretwork, cornice, and chair rail all in the original, unpainted walnut. To the right of the fireplace is a bookshelf with doors containing small panes of glass and to the right is a closet which once housed an early stairway. The rest of the house preserves original mantels, trim, and floorboards.

Even more spectacular, still, may be the importance of this house and property on Kentucky’s equine industry.

In her essay “A richer land never seen yet” contained in the book Bluegrass Renaissance, Maryjean Wall wrote that “a house that Colonel Roberts Sanders built in 1798 near Georgetown in Scott County became part of a complex that was said to include a five-hundred-bed hotel, a race track, and a farm for Thoroughbreds.”

Wall went on to note that efforts by those such as Sanders “eventually would combine to make an industry.” An action setting Sanders apart from the others was his purchase and import to Kentucky of Melzar – a stallion whose short time at stud produced a prized offspring which led toward Kentucky’s first sweepstakes.” Sanders also imported to Kentucky the first Thoroughbred from England; he was a stallion named Blaze.

Sanders truly contributed to Kentucky and Kentucky stands at risk of losing its physical connection with “the wealthiest pioneer in the state” (as family histories indicate).

His 1,000 acre land grand offered Sanders the space and opportunity to develop his empire. According to the application to the National Register to which the property was added in 1973, the “Sanders estate also included a spring house, ice house, smoke house, loom house, blacksmith shop, and a stone barn. The stone barn, which was laid without mortar, originally had tiny port-holes for mounting rifles.”

The rifles would have been necessary to thwart attacks from Indians. Other defenses built in the event of an Indian attack included thick walls (up to 3.5 feet in places). The basement was apparently designed as a safe place to go in the event of attack as well. The well-built house utilized 8×12 sleepers in its construction (compared with today’s conventional 2×4 … a clear reason this house was thought to “last forever.”) which, among other things, offered additional headroom for those seeking shelter during a raid. Later, a portion of this basement became “one of the finest wine cellars in the state” according to the National Register application.

An obituary running in the Kentucky Gazette in May 1805 reported the “death of Colonel Robert Sanders of Scott County ‘after illness of 4 weeks.'” Hopefully, the physical space he once inhabited will not too perish.

Demo Watch: Shotgun Houses on Lexington’s Jefferson Street

Clockwise from upper left: 440, 444, 448, and 446 Jefferson Street. 

Demolition permits have been filed to tear down four shotgun houses, each built ca. 1890, along the increasingly popular Jefferson Street corridor on Lexington, Kentucky’s northside.

As noted last week in another demolition watch, the “single-story shotgun is one of a dying breed.” These four shotgun houses were constructed a short time after the Warfield Bell Subdivision was platted. Located between Fourth and Sixth streets on both sides of Jefferson (plus Fifth and Sixth on both sides of Smith Street Extended), the subdivision consisted of 113 lots. It was the city’s first subdivision of 100+ lots.

I can’t find a proposal of what will replace these dwellings. Though at least one has been abandoned for some time and another is the site of multiple nuisance violations in the past few years, these houses did provide affordable housing in Lexington for 125 years.

And a quick note from last week’s Demo Watch: I posted a Watch for 3 structures already demolished. Mea culpa. I received word of the filing of the demolition permits on March 17 and posted three days later. The permits were, however, filed earlier. There isn’t much I can do about that, but I will continue to try and post Demo Watch posts. If a structure has already been demolished, at least something will remain written of it.

The permits for the above four shotguns on Jefferson Street, according to the Citygram I received, were filed on March 20. As of this morning, they hadn’t been demolished though it appears that the fire department has been doing some practice on the roofs of a few of the structures.

Demo Watch: Permits sought to demolish 4 structures near University of Kentucky campus

Demolition permits have been sought at these four Lexington, Kentucky properties. Individual images from Fayette PVA.

On March 9, demolition permits were sought for three structures on Euclid Avenue. Permits for wrecking the structures at 626, 630 and 634 Euclid Avenue would pave the way for a development already announced. The location is opposite Marquis from the new Euclid Kroger on its one end and a three story brick-and-glass commercial structure (The Ashland Building).

And while Euclid once had a number of single family residences along its way, the area has transformed into a more intensive use. Though these structures, built in the first half of the 20th century, were once representative of the homes along this avenue, they now seem almost out of place.

The history of this stretch of road can be told quickly through a few newspaper articles. In July 1903, the Lexington Leader announced that “the work of grading Euclid Avenue in the Aylesford division has been commenced and when macadamized will furnish the shortest route from the Tates Creek Pike to State College.” Once the road was paved, houses like the ones proposed for demolition sprung up on what became a residential corridor. In 1920, the road was designated a boulevard and paved with asphalt. But in June 1987, the Herald-Leader found that Euclid Avenue was “an expanding commercial thoroughfare that leads to Chevy Chase” and that it “may be designated a business corridor.”

The site is proposed to now become a retail and restaurant space; the development plan, also submitted to the city, can be accessed here. The map below shows its location, with the corner of Euclid Kroger poking from the bottom of the map.

Additionally, a demolition permit for 171 Montmullin was filed on March 11. This single-story shotgun is one of a dying breed. The one-bedroom, one-bath home is only 568 square feet. Built in 1910, it represents an architectural style once prominent in various parts of Lexington and other communities. Rapidly, however, progress is marking the end of the the shotgun style. Each year, more and more shotguns are being demolished.

Montmullin Street is located in the Pralltown neighborhood, which is the oldest historically African American neighborhood in Lexington. By 1940, it contained over 200 homes but has been “an ongoing battle to prevent the neighborhood from becoming a new housing area” for UK students for the past twenty years. Unlike the UK fight song, this battle has not been won and the demolition of 171 Montmullin marks another loss to the disappearing Pralltown.