A deTour of Lexington’s East End

Lexington’s East End neighborhood is proud to once again be the site of the Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation’s September deTour. On Wednesday, Sept. 4, deTours will offer a glimpse of how the East End evolved and changed over the course of 100 years. And we will do it all without ever leaving East Fifth Street. The deTour will visit three locations: the Zirl Palmer Pharmacy Building, the site of the old Kentucky Association Race Track, and Shiloh Baptist Church. Tour details are at the bottom of this post.

Zirl Palmer Pharmacy Building

Google Streetview

The Zirl Palmer Pharmacy Building is located at the corner of East Fifth and Chestnut streets which is where the deTour will begin. It was built in 1962 by Dr. Zirl Palmer, a black pharmacist and prominent businessman who would later become the first African American appointed to the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees. Dr. Palmer also was the first African American to own a Rexall franchise in the United States. He operated his pharmacy at this location for several years before relocating his pharmacy to the Georgetown Street Plaza. In September 1968, the Georgetown Street pharmacy was firebombed by a member of the KKK. Palmer, his wife, and daughter were injured in the blast. Palmer never reopened the pharmacy. He died in 1982. Most recently, the East Fifth Street building was home to the Catholic Action Center. The building is currently empty and the Blue Grass Trust is leading an effort to save and re-purpose it.

Kentucky Association Track

The Kentucky Association race track was located on 65 acres of land at the corner of East Fifth and Race Streets. The Kentucky Association was Lexington’s thoroughbred race track for 100 years until it closed in 1933. Three years later, in 1936, Keeneland would open on Versailles Road. But many of the traditions and even some of the important races that began at the East End track live on at Keeneland. Case in point: the Phoenix Stakes. First run at the Kentucky Association track in 1831, it is still run each fall at Keeneland, making it the oldest stakes race in North America. A marker honoring the old race track is erected at Fifth and Shropshire Avenue, near the original entrance to the track. Photos of the track will be on display for the tour. The Kentucky Association track is among the landmarks featured in Peter Brackney’s book Lost Lexingtonwhich highlights sites that did not survive as the city grew.

Shiloh Baptist Church

The old Shiloh Baptist Church tin Thomas Street (demolished). Image courtesy of Thomas Tolliver.

A tour of the East End wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention its spiritual underpinnings. For this, we must look no further than Shiloh Baptist Church. The large edifice in the 200 block of East Fifth Street has not always been a black church. When the building was erected in 1923, it housed a white congregation and continued to do so for 40 years. But in the 1960s, the white congregation moved to the suburbs and Shiloh moved from its cramped quarters on Thomas Street to this location. Interestingly, neither Thomas Street nor the old church exist today.

Sanborn Map of the East End, including the Kentucky Association Track. The blue arrow
shows the location of the old Shiloh Baptist Church. Image courtesy of Thomas Tolliver.

Individually, each of the these sites attest to the rich and diverse history of the East End. Collectively, they speak to the rise and fall and now the revival of the neighborhood.

If you are interested in learning more, then please join us on September 4, 2019, for the BGT deTour. We will gather at the pharmacy at 5:30 p.m. and the program will start around 5:45. As always, deTours are free of charge and open to the public. This easy walking tour spans just four blocks. 

This post was submitted by Thomas Tolliver in anticipation of the September 4, deTour. It has been slightly edited by the author of this site.

A Cinematic deTour: Belle Brezing

Belle Brezing. UK Now Photo.

Kentucky’s most reputed madame is the subject of July’s Blue Grass Trust deTour which will feature a showing of Belle Brezing and the Gilded Age of the Bluegrass

This Kentucky production tells the story of Belle Brezing, the Lexington madam with a nationwide reputation for running the Victorian era’s most “Orderly of Dis-Orderly homes.” With a head for business in the business of sex, Belle’s story is woven into the age when the equine and bourbon industries grew to new heights. In her influential parlors, she and her ladies plied their trade from the end of the 19th century through the start of World War I. The film details Brezing’s journey from hardscrabble youth to the “Baroness of the Brothel,” while becoming the nearly undeniable inspiration for Belle Watley in Gone with the Wind. Produced and directed by Doug High.

Lead actress Laurie Genet Preston and expert Dr. Maryjean Wall will be in attendance to offer insight into the life of this notable Lexingtonian.

Scroll down for more details about the upcoming deTour.

The Mary Todd Lincoln House, where Belle began her ‘trade.’ Belle Brezing Photographic Collection (UK)

Rediscovering Lexington’s 146 East Third

Before and After Renovation – 146 East Third Street, Lexington, Ky. Author (left) and Linda Carroll (right)

A growing engineering firm is moving from one restored property on East Third Street to another, larger space. Both properties have been beautifully restored, but that hasn’t always been the case.

The new office at 146 East Third Street was acquired by the current owners, John Morgan and Linda Carroll, in 2009. On August 3, 2011, the structure was part of a #BGTdeTours walking tour of East Third Street. Following that deTour, I wrote this writeup:

Walking into 146 is like walking into a true construction zone. Originally built in 1847, this property was sold in 1849 to Daniel Wickliffe, the editor of the Lexington Observer and Reporter. Wickliffe would later serve as the Secretary of State under Governor Robinson. In the mid-1900s, the property was a Moose Lodge and was later converted into apartments. Morgan & Carroll acquired this property in late 2009 and have not yet begun restoration, so many remnants of its days as a tenement remain.

And a construction zone it was. The building was in less than stellar shape, but a complete transformation has taken place. Four years after first exploring 146 East Third Street, the #BGTdeTours program is returning to see the amazing restoration.

146 E. Third Street, Lexington, KY. UK Libraries

Built in 1847 by George W. Brush, the residence was acquired by Daniel Wickliffe two years later. Mr. Wickliffe served as the editor (and later both editor and proprietor) of the Lexington Observer & Reporter newspaper. The property would pass through a few more families, but would in 1955 be acquired to serve as the local Moose Lodge.

The Loyal Order of Moose is a fraternity that was founded in Louisville, Kentucky in 1888. Lexington’s local order seemed to have dissolved but was reestablished about 1944 with a lodge on East Main Street before it was moved to 146 East Third Street. And though the structure has for many years not served the Order of Moose, you can look for some decorative touches that honor the structure’s historic past during Wednesday’s deTour.

BGT deTour
Respec, Inc.
August 5, 2015
Gather at 5:30 p.m.

146 East Third Street, Lexington

Free and open to the public. An AfterHour at Columbia’s Steakhouse follows with a percentage of proceeds supporting the Blue Grass Trust.


Explore Historic Frankfort on the next #BGTdeTours

On Wednesday, June 3 you can join the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation’s deTour of the Old Governor’s Mansion and Old State Capitol in the state capital of Frankfort. The program will begin at 6 p.m. at the Old Governor’s Mansion, 420 High Street in Frankfort.

The event is free and open to the public; parking is available on-street as well as in the parking lot of the Kentucky Historical Society. Please help share pictures from the event on social media with the hashtag #BGTdeTours!

Old Governor’s Mansion

Old Governor’s Mansion. Image provided by Eric Whisman.

Built in 1798-98, the Old Governor’s Mansion remains one of the oldest executive mansions in the United States. It remained in this role until after the state capitol was moved across the river and the new governor’s mansion was completed in 1914.

Thirty-five governors called this building home while they served the Commonwealth and it also was their workplace until 1872 when an annex was built next to the Old State Capitol.

After the governor moved out, the building both served various official roles and sat vacant for several years. The building deteriorated and after World War II, many considered its demolition.

But Governor Simeon Willis found money in the budget to stabilize the project (no doubt influenced by his preservationist wife, Ida Lee Willis) and the home was fully renovated in 1956. It then became the official residence for Kentucky’s Lieutenant Governor.

More about the Old Governor’s Mansion is available from the Division of Historic Properties.

Old State Capitol

HABS Survey of Old State House in Frankfort, Ky.

Kentucky’s third state house was designed by Gideon Shryock. Built from 1827 to 1830, the National Historic Landmark’s design was inspired by the Temple of Minerva. Six massive Ionic columns under a classical pediment convey the strength of the Commonwealth. Finished in Kentucky River marble (aka, limestone), the beautiful structure is even more exceptional on the interior.

A self-supporting staircase splits into a double circular square under the cupola which sheds light on the interior. The chambers of both the House and Senate are adorned with some original furnishings. The entire structure is today part of the the Kentucky Historical Society complex.

More about the Old State Capitol is available from the Division of Historic Properties.

I hope to see you at the deTour. Reservations aren’t necessary, but you can ‘join’ the event on Facebook by clicking below.

Also, don’t forget to use hashtag #BGTdeTours!

Explore Gratz Park at Tonight’s #BGTdeTours

“A full book could be written on the structures that stand (or once stood) in and around Gratz Park. Most notably, the primary structure of what is now Transylvania University once stood in the center of the park. Designed by architect Matthew Kennedy, the three-story academic building was constructed in 1816 but burnt to the ground in 1829. After the fire, Transylvania retreated to the north side of Third Street.”

That’s a snippet from Chapter 1 of Lost Lexington – a chapter that discussed the Hart-Bradford House that once stood on the southwest corner of Second and Mill streets until its demolition in favor of a parking lot in 1955.

In the wake of that demolition, a committed group of committed citizens came together to organize what would become The Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation. And the city of Lexington established Gratz Park as the city’s first historic district three years later in 1958.

The effort to preserve the structures around Gratz Park, an effort begun by the 1955 demolition of the Hart-Bradford House, jumpstarted the historic preservation movement in central Kentucky.

For this month’s BGT deTour, we’ll explore the history of Gratz Park with guide Carolyn Hackworth, the leader of www.lexwwalkingtour.com. If you make it, please help the BGT promote the event before, during and after the deTour by using #BGTdeTours on social media! Thanks!

In the words of Kentucky architectural historian Clay Lancaster, “the park has charm, atmosphere, a sense of tranquility and of history, and it provides an oasis of planting tucked into the cityscape.”

And it has a lot of history.

After Gratz Park, the group will retire for a house tour of the newly-restored Thomas Hunt Morgan House where light refreshments will serve as tonight’s AfterHour. Thomas Hunt Morgan grew up in this ca. 1870 McMurtry-designed Italiantate which has had multiple additions, notably an auditorium (ca. 1912) and dining hall (ca. 1970) have left many more square feet than originally included in the McMurtry design. Utilized for many years by the Women’s Club of Central Kentucky, the house was deeded to the BGT in 2014 reuniting two parcels of John Wesley Hunt’s property once again. For more on the Thomas Hunt Morgan House and Nobelaureate Thomas Hunt Morgan, click here.

And although an RSVP isn’t necessary, you can join the event on Facebook:

The award-winning BGT deTours program is designed to provide tours of places you might not normally get to see, helping people interact with and learn about sites that make the Bluegrass special. For young professionals (and the young at heart!), deTours are always the first Wednesday* of the month at 5:30 pm*, and are always free and open to the public (*exception being holidays, weather and out-of-county locations).

Captain Wilgus’ Italian Villa, known as Parker Place, on deTour Wednesday Night in Lexington

John B. Wilgus House (aka Parker Place) at 511 W. Short St., Lexington. Mary Sloan.

It is rare to find such a plot of land in downtown Lexington, but there is the Parker Place on West Short Street. Once part of a much larger tract owned by Eliza Parker, the grandmother of Mary Todd Lincoln, the land was later acquired by Captain John B. Wilgus.

Capt. Wilgus, a Unionist during the Civil War, led the Lexington Blues. The Lexington Blues was a homeguard unit, the so-called ‘army of last resort’, purposed with protecting the life and property of the Union supporters in the event of an invasion by the Rebels. In business, Capt. Wilgus was active in various efforts and was a successful grocer and banker in Lexington.

In 1870, Capt. Wilgus retained John McMurtry to build, and likely design, an Italianate villa in Lexington’s Western Suburb on land he had acquired in the mid-1850s. Before Wilgus’ acquisition, McMurtry operated both a lumber yard and carpentry shop on the site.

Exterior of the Octagonal Room at Parker Place. Mary Sloan

The design included an octagonal room on the two-story villa’s western side – a room that housed Wilgus’ extensive art collection. Following his death, the collection was auctioned off. At that time, the Lexington Leader described the collection as including “rare foreign and American paintings” as well as “the celebrated marble bust and pedestal of Augustus Caesar by Joel T. Hart.”

You may recall the name Joel T. Hart as being the noted Kentucky sculptor, born in Winchester, who spent much of his life in Italy. One of his noted works, Woman Triumphant, was destroyed when the old (fourth) Fayette County Courthouse was destroyed by fire in May 1897.

Capt. Wilgus himself succombed to cancer of the jaw in 1889. His condition had been the subject of the news, as reported on by the Lexington Leader, in yet another reminder of the style of the news from yesteryear: Mr Wilgus “has suffered with a growth on his face … He consented to a dangerous operation to remove the tumor this morning.”

The house itself was sold a few years before Wilgus’ death. It changed hands several times before it was acquired by the Lexington Orphans Society, which being established in 1833, was one of the oldest such societies in the nation. Parker Place served as an orphanage from 1907 until 1975.

The property, as noted above is within the Western Historic Suburb of Lexington and is included on the neighborhood’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register application describes Parker Place as being “by far the largest scale and most elaborate residential building in the neighborhood.”

On Wednesday, April 1, 2015, the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation’s deTour program will tour Parker Place. The group will begin gathering at 5:30 p.m. and parking is available behind St. Paul’s Catholic Church or behind the Greentree Tea Room. More details are available here. The event is free and open to the public.

deTour of the Carrick House

Carrick House. (Photos by Peter Brackney, arr. by Whitney Rhorer)

The residence located at 312 North Limestone was commissioned by James Weir shortly before he passed in 1832 “intestate, unmarried, and without issue” according to the papers of Henry Clay. A nephew carried both his uncle’s name and vision beyond the grave so that the house was completed by James Weir (the nephew) by the early 1850s.

The list of craftsman who contributed to the completion of the Weir House is extensive as set forth in Dunn’s Old Houses of Lexington:

Construction costs enumerated by the administrators reveal the interesting facts that William “King” Solomon, James Lane Allen’s hero of the cholera plague of 1833, dug the foundation and latrine; Samuel Long, who build the famous house ‘for two Merino sheep’ for Samuel Trotter, did the carpenter work; Lailey Moore & co. furnished the timbers for Shyrock’s columns, E. Howes did the ‘turning’ and Elliott also furnished materials for the “portico”; J. Enrock and also Seeley had bills for plank and scantling; Eblig supplied the brick, Nixon “blew the well,” and Schakelford furnished the marbling. In addition to the brick for the residence, Ebling supplied brick ‘for the kitchen.’

While some of these names are recognizable in the lore of Lexington history (King Solomon, for example), others are less notable but who undoubtedly had their hand in a number of structures built during Lexington’s rise as the Athens of the West.

A View of the Carrick House’s Portico from within. (Author’s Collection.)

The two story, three bay brick Weir House features a “massive double portico” and has a wing on either side. The wings, each two bays wide, were once a single story but were raised to two stories through the years. As noted above, the architectural design is attributed to Gideon Shryock though much John McMurtry completed much of the project.

A Snowy Day at Carrick House. (Author’s Collection.)

According to the state’s historic resources inventory, the Greek Revival mansion would have once had a front door in the same tradition “with sidelights and transom.”

At one time, the Weir property encompassed the land from 3rd to 4th streets from Limestone to Walnut. (Nota bene: Walnut is now Martin Luther King Blvd. on the north side of Main Street while “the road to Limestone” referred to what is now called Maysville when passing north beyond Third Street. To the south of Third Street, the townspeople then called the road Mulberry).

When the younger Weir abandoned Kentucky for Texas in 1852, the property passed to Judge Thomas Marshall. Marshall’s vitae included a professorship in law at Transylvania University, four terms in the U.S. Congress, a stint in the legislature in Frankfort, as well as 22 years on the Kentucky Court of Appeals (which was then the high court of the Commonwealth.)

After five years Marshall sold the house to another accomplished lawyer, Richard Buckner, who kept the house an even shorter time before selling the property to a well-known Lexingtonian: Henry T. Duncan, Sr. It would pass through that family and through other hands before it would be received by the family whose name the property today bares: Carrick.

In 1910, Dr. James Cantrill Carrick and his wife, Anna Pearce Carrick, acquired the property at the northeast corner of North Limestone and Third Streets. The couple resided there until Dr. Carrick passed in 1954; in 1955, the house was donated to Transylvania University in 1955. Quickly, Transylvania liquidated the asset to the Whitehall Funeral Chapel. The mansion served as a funeral home for the latter half of the twentieth century.

In 2007, Jerry Lundergan acquired the property and it was converted into an event space. A significant addition to the rear of the structure was added in 2011.

Tonight (Wednesday, March 4, 2015)(Update: due to weather, the event is being postponed one week to Wednesday, March 11), the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation’s monthly deTour program will feature a behind the scenes, full-access tour of the beautiful Carrick House. Come explore!

Lexington Landmark: St. Paul’s A.M.E. Church

Lexington, Kentucky has fifteen historic districts and two historic landmarks. One of these two local historic landmarks is the St. Paul A.M.E. Church on North Upper Street.

Prior to 1826, a small number of blacks worshipped at the predominately white Lexington Methodist Church which was located “on the north side of Church Street, between Limestone and Upper streets” in the “large two-story brick Methodist Church, built in 1822” according to Wright’s Lexington: Heart of the Bluegrass. In 1826, however, the Methodists congregation aided their black brothers and sisters in the acquisition of an “old stable on North Upper Street.”

That mission on North Upper Street would become, over time, the St. Paul AME Church. This historically black congregation meets in a building that was erected on the site of the original stable in 1826. Today, that structure is said to be the oldest continually used house of worship in Lexington. Over the years, it was expanded to meet the needs of the growing church body. Significant renovations and expansion projects occurred in 1850, 1877, 1906, and 1986.

This historic house of worship was the site of the Blue Grass Trust’s February 2015 deTour.

Scenes from St. Paul AME, including the steps that once served as a station on the
underground railroad. Author’s collection.

African Methodist Episcopal Denomination

In 1787, a former slave by the name of Richard Allen helped establish the AME Church in Philadelphia as it split from the Methodist Episcopal Church. Six years earlier, Allen had purchased his freedom. Allen, along with his the Rev. Absalom Jones, regularly worshipped at Philadelphia’s St. George’s ME Church.

The church had separated its colored congregants by having them seated around the room’s perimeter. One Sunday in 1787, Rev. Absalom Jones, however, began his prayers prior to the service closer to the sanctuary’s center. A sexton ordered Allen’s friend to get up and advising that Jones “must not kneel here.” Interrupting Jones’ prayers, the sexton persisted. Jones ultimately responded to the sexton   that he ought to “wait until prayer is over, and I will get up and trouble you no more.”

After the conclusion of their prayers, all of the congregants worshipping at St. George’s rose and departed the church. The moment is perceived as the beginning of the AME denomination.

Methodism in Lexington & the Beginning of St. Paul AME

The decade before, the ME Church began a mission in Lexington which ultimately would become what is today the First United Methodist Church on High Street. By 1803, the congregation had 47 white and 30 black members.

By 1820, several black members sought their own separate house of worship and a mission of Hill Street ME Church was started in a brick stable on North Upper Street. Six years later, the St. Paul ME Church was formally established and the deed to the stable was acquired a year later. In 1830, a small brick church was built (though a portion of the original stable remains in the extant church’s foundation).

The church began to grow both in numbers and in assets as additional property was acquired. Soon after the Civil War concluded, St. Paul (along with another 300 predominately black ME churches) withdrew from what was then known as the ME Church Conference of the South, or simply ME South).

Within a year, St. Paul affiliated with the AME Church. And for many years the church continued to grow and build.

A Pillar of the Community

St. Paul’s legacy extends far beyond its walls. During the era of slavery, the church functioned as a station on the underground railroad. Although not safely accessible today, a narrow twisting staircase behind the chancel rises to a small hidden room above the sanctuary which once served as a place of refuge for slaves on their way toward freedom.

Following the Civil War, the church hosted discussions about the education of black Kentuckians. Members of St. Paul AME helped organize both the Colored Orphan Industrial Home and the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA. An 1885 assembly at St. Paul AME on the subject of black education led toward the creation of what became Kentucky State University.

The Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation hosts a monthly deTour for young professionals (and the young-at-heart). The group meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. Learn more details about this exciting group on FacebookYou can also see Kaintuckeean write-ups on previous deTours by clicking here.

TONIGHT: BGT deTour of St. Paul A.M.E. Church

Lexington’s St. Paul AME Church. Photos by M. Sloan, arr. by W. Rhorer.

This month’s Blue Grass Trust deTours program is tonight, Wednesday, February 4! It will feature one of two Lexington landmarks as designated by the city: St. Paul AME Church at 251 North Upper Street.

St. Paul AME moved to this location in 1820, when they began renting a stable on the site. In 1827, the congregation purchased the stable and surrounding lot for $280. Significant updates to the lot and building occurred in 1850, 1877, 1906, and 1986. It is believed that asection of the original stable is thought to be in the basement. And the church was also a stop on the Underground Railroad!

The event is free and open to the public. deTourians begin gathering at 5:30 pm, and the tour starts at 5:45 pm. A social AfterHour will follow at the Atomic Cafe, 265 North Limestone.

Parking is available along Third Street or in the parking lot at the corner of Upper and Mechanic Streets. On Facebook? Let your friends know you’ll be at the deTour and encourage them to come, too! Just click through on the event below and say “I’m Going!”

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));

A deTour of Temple Adath Israel TONIGHT

Lexington’s first Jewish congregation was and is the Temple Adath Israel. It was established formally in 1904 “for the purpose of religious services, a Sabbath school and other matters pertaining to the moral elevation among the Jewish people of Lexington and Central Kentucky.”

Temple Adath Israel is affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism. According to reformjudaism.org, that movement of Judaism aims “to introduce innovation while preserving tradition, to embrace diversity while asserting commonality, to affirm beliefs without rejecting those who doubt, and to bring faith to sacred texts without sacrificing critical scholarship.”

Tonight at 5:30 p.m. the Blue Grass Trust’s deTours program will host its monthly event at Temple Adath Israel’s historic sanctuary which is located in Lexington at 124 North Ashland Avenue. Specific event details are available at www.facebook.com/BGTdeTours or by calling the BGT office at (859) 253-0362.

The congregation first met in 1903, before charter in “a rented lodge hall on short Street in downtown Lexington, where a dozen of the it’s most prominent Jewish residents met to hold services, listen to the lecture of a visiting rabbi, and set in motion the establishment of a new congregation” according to the book The Synagogues of Kentucky. The congregation constructed and began worshiping in a synagogue on Maryland Avenue in 1904 in what was the first physical synagogue in Lexington; that structure is still standing.

Temple Adath Israel Sanctuary prior to remodeling. UK Libraries.

The only physical sign that the Maryland Avenue synagogue was a Jewish house of worship was “nothing more than a wooden sign near its door.” That sign has been on display at the Ashland Avenue synagogue since the congregation relocated to the location in 1926.

Sanctuary of Temple Adath Israel, ca. 2014. Author’s collection.

The Ashland Avenue facilities were expanded in 1950 and 1955, but those additions were removed when the entire complex was remodeled in 1984. At that time, the sanctuary was also partially remodeled with changes including the removal of the old pipe organ.

The congregation and its members have played a vital role in Lexington’s growth as well as our community’s commercial and spiritual activities.

We hope to see everyone tonight at the Blue Grass Trust deTour which begins at 5:30. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/BGTdeTours or call the BGT office at (859) 253-0362.