Monday, October 14, 2013

Northside Memories: Rose Lucas

Please enjoy and relish Rose's final blog to Northsidelex's website. Recruiting Rose for the launch of our site was a unanimous decision of our committee and worth the persuasion it required of the author. But a unanimous decision did not by any means make Rose agreeable. However, growing up in the Northside, rearing her family here, starting her successful business here and serving on the Board made her an irresistible candidate and she melted. Rose added to her schedule this commitment to share with us for a year the description of the evolution of our neighborhood before we arrived and that explains why there is this resurgence of interest and migration to her neighborhood. Thank you, Rose. We hope this will be a sabbatical.

October, 2013
As I end my year of Northside Memories, I think of all the stories I did not tell. My work and my lack of time really got in the way this summer and early fall. But, I have some reflections with which to end my stint as the inaugural writer of this series. As I have traveled around and seen all the hardscape improvements recently, I note the care given to installing sidewalks on Tates Creek Road, and I bemoan, again, the issue of cars parking in the utility strips and on the sidewalks of North Broadway (not to mention in yards!). Efforts are underway to stripe a parking lane on the east side of Broadway between Fifth and Sixth Street as was done when the Fourth to Fifth block was paved. The center line and the lane marks have already been moved to the west. I hope this is completed soon, and once again people are able to use the sidewalks along Broadway as sidewalks. I am particularly concerned about our neighbors in wheelchairs traveling in that area. The summer slipped away before I recounted the great fun of walking to Castlewood Park to swim when we were pre-teen and teenage. Collecting a crowd of people from all over the Northside (from Short to Delcamp), we would traipse to the park and spend the day, and then we each would pay a nickel for a flat box of pretzels to eat on the walk home. Sadly, no more nickel pretzels, nor the corner store where the pretzels were purchased. Many might not be aware that Elsmere Park is the oldest concrete street still in existence in Kentucky. Built in 1926, it has seen its share of patch paving, and it is in need again. Legend says the owners of the houses on Elsmere Park pitched in to pour concrete over the brick street, raising the level but preserving the limestone curbs on one of the first subdivisions taken into the city. The residents are lobbying to have repairs done in the immediate future. The recent spate of damage to cars and outbuildings is troublesome. Just within the last week, an attempt was made to set a house on fire on Elsmere Park – and a day or two later the playground near the old Russell School was a victim of arson. Over the decades I have lived here, we have seen these types of vandalism and crime rise and fall. The police have certainly been responsive this time (at least from what I have observed), and I hope they are able to stop these recent episodes. Vigilance on all our parts is essential. Keep an eye out and call the authorities if anything seems amiss. I appreciate the opportunity to leave my thoughts with those who wish to read them. Thank you, Northside Neighborhood Association, for your efforts on the behalf of all us who live, work and play in our wonderful neighborhood!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Of Tours, Picnics and One Way Streets

 Sitting on my front porch during the 2013 Northside tour, I was able to talk to so many people I had not seen in a while and quite a few who had never seen Elsmere Park. Get that a lot – people just do not know where our street is, or that it even exists. The tour really helps lots of folks understand more about the Northside. Congratulations to the organizers for a most successful day – we served a lot of lemonade and cookies on Elsmere Park. I was reminded, too, of the tour in the early 1990’s when we had more than 40 sites lined up…the crowds were huge, but my most fond memory was seeing journalist Al Smith visiting with a homeowner in the 400 block of North Upper who was telling Mr. Smith all about her family and tracing her ancestors back for more than 100 years and relating their wondrous stories. I had a hard time moving on to the next site and leaving the storytelling that was so unique. Elsmere Park celebrated another annual picnic this month, and memories of the early picnics were shared…including stories from Joe Binford about singing and playing his banjo, of Clara Curran who would bring her stereo (this was the 70’s) out onto her porch for the neighbors to enjoy music, of Maurice Clay who would organize games for adults which consisted of trying to sweep magnolia leaves down the street, of later generation neighbors who would lead the children’s games of egg toss and water balloon toss (some adults really enjoyed those, too). Neighborhood celebrations all, and creators of wonderful memories. And one way streets…a question I pose: given the long range planning to remove the viaduct at Jefferson Street and potentially the viaduct at Martin Luther King (on the plan to memorialize the Town Branch through downtown), if Upper and Lime become two way, and Transylvania is in session, how does one move a vehicle from north to south in an emergency, since most of the hospitals are south of Main Street? And, if that run on sentence is not enough, what about delivery trucks and Lextran buses on two way, one lane each way streets? Andres Duany, a great urban planner, once said, (mostly with regard to parking) that a two block walk to a destination is a good thing, but the walk must be interesting. I would be curious to know how (my anticipated, I admit) gridlock would be interesting. Granted, the perception is we do not have much traffic on the north side of Main Street, but I would like for the current traffic consultants to make the almost daily trips to doctors and hospitals that I make and tell me it is all going to be fine. One of the advantages of living here all my life is that I remember what it was like when Short, Second, Lime and Upper were two way streets. Short and Second were paired as one way in the 1950’s, while I was still in high school. Lime and Upper came later. Traffic moved pretty well before one way streets, but the population was 50,000. Today is different in so many ways.

-By Rose Lucas 
June 16, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ahh, Spring!

April 2013, By Rose Lucas There is no place as pretty as our neighborhood in the spring – old growth trees sporting lime green leaves, pink and white flowering trees and shrubs, and the reawakening of green yards (hard to have lawns in the urban core, right?). I love the idea of a front yard with its lush grass, the shrubs at the foundations of lovely old houses, and the sidewalks welcoming walkers. Living in town gives so many pleasures and provides such interesting sites for us as we wander our neighborhood, and front and back yards contribute lots of character to our homes. This spring the fickle weather has robbed us of most of the pear blossoms (and saved a lot of us serious allergy reactions), and I have missed the avenue of Broadway in front of Transylvania being a luscious white with the Aristocrat pears. On the other hand, the late spring has given forsythia a really strong start and has it blooming along with many other perennial colorful contributors. Not often do we see the bright yellow of forsythia combined with purples and pinks of azaleas. Growing up in the Northside, I was always so glad to see spring come…being able to walk more places was part of the joy, but spring always meant school would be out soon, and we could stay out later at night to play our version of baseball (with John Irvin’s car headlights allowing an even later end to our game). This baseball game, using a tennis ball but a real bat, would without fail be played with someone’s porch as a backstop; base paths were short and generally ended at a big water maple tree (more often than not we could stop without running into it), and there was no sliding home since we would be running into steps to a porch. Our games included mostly young people ages 9 to 15, but occasionally an older neighbor would join in – such as a high school student who already had a driver’s license (but nothing better to do right then) or even a college student. All of us who were younger thought we were pretty big stuff when we got the college kids to play! As to the water maple trees – they were property line markers for a lot of the early developments in the Northside. Very few are left, and they are not the first generation ones, but I sure can remember them as bases for our baseball games, as finishes for “Red Rover” games and as providers of the most wonderful shade, even while they were sending their roots into every crevice they could find in the water and sewer pipes. A love/hate relationship if there ever was one!

Friday, March 1, 2013

What is Missing?

By Rose Lucas

As I think back over the neighborhood I have known for seven decades, I remember some of the landmarks we no longer have. Walking along North Broadway or North Limestone, as I did for most of my years of school at St. Catherine Academy and Lexington Catholic High School (located where the Sayre Upper School is today) and my years of college at Transylvania, every day I enjoyed neighbors and neighborhood buildings. Transylvania’s campus faced North Broadway and had an entrance arch that led to the College of the Bible Building (razed in 1959/ 60 and replaced by Haupt Humanities Building). McAlister Auditorium was the college gym on the corner of Fourth and Broadway and included classrooms that were built in a wrap around for the old gym that dated when my mother was a student in the 1920s. One of my earlier posts bemoaned the loss of the corner groceries – and the Transy Den, on the northeast corner of Fourth and Broadway, was an institution for many years for both Transy students and neighbors. The Colonial Inn, a fantastic southern restaurant, was housed in an historic home on the southwest corner of Fourth and Broadway and was replaced, along with another home used as both a private home and housing for Transy students when my mother was in school, by the Young Center. Further out Broadway, several homes were razed to make room for apartment buildings. The stone “castle” at the southeast corner of Sixth and Broadway was a particularly significant loss; as was the lovely apartment building at the northeast corner of Elsmere Park and North Broadway that was torn down to build a professional office building. I sit at my keyboard on the other corner of Elsmere Park and North Broadway in an office building which replaced a beautiful home with round brick columns similar to the ones found on a house on the east side of the 500 block of Broadway. Kudos to early efforts on the part of NNA to stop the wholesale demolition of homes to make room for apartment buildings and office buildings. Limestone has missing parts, too. Across from St. Catherine Academy was a row of furniture stores; across from Sayre School the retail buildings still stand and are in use, but I expressly remember the Buchignani grocery store in that block that had one of the first frozen food cases in Lexington. Doodles was a neighborhood service station, then later the liquor store; there was also a service station at the southeast corner of Fifth and Lime – now a grassy area complementing the Brand House at Rose Hill. The old Johnson School was a magnificent structure on the northwest corner of Fourth and Lime, replaced by the Johnson School Townhomes. Yet, nothing will replace the thrill of hearing Dunbar High School’s band practicing on the campus. My first year as a teacher found me at the old Lexington Junior High School, and I miss the historic original structure and the home just south that was lost in the expansion of the school. I am sure others can come up with more “missing” elements of our neighborhood, but I have had this subject on my mind for a while and wanted to share some of the highlights in my memories

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Some of Our Green Spaces

 January 15, 2013 by Rose Lucas 
Always an active group with many projects and many hands to help, about the same time as the Northside Historic District endeavor was underway in the mid-1980’s, the Northside assumed ownership of the property on the southeast corner of North Broadway and Fifth Street (former home of one of our corner groceries, interesting particularly because the porch roof ran out all the way to the street and was a wonderful shelter from sun and rain). NNA commenced to build Founders Park, guided in part by Chuck Mallory who helped with the design and building of the park. Kudos, though, go to the neighbors who helped maintain the park, to the lovely Miss Catherine Dunn, longtime secretary of NNA, who allowed us to run a water hose to the park from her property two doors away to keep the newly planted park alive, and to the ongoing efforts over the years to plant perennials from neighborhood gardens and annuals to keep the park vibrant for passersby. More kudos to those who were responsible for the recent cleanup of the park this past fall. Founders Park and the North Broadway tree planting project, in memory of Mildred Moloney, and funded partly by memorials for her after her death, were two of the earliest Action Match Grant Projects approved by LFUCG. James B. Evans, Landscape Architect, with an office in the Northside, designed the tree project, and more than 70 street trees, maple, oak, London plane and Aristocrat pear, were planted from Second Street to beyond Loudon Avenue to preserve the tree canopy along this main entrance into downtown Lexington. Prior to 1986, a number of flowering trees along the 400 and 500 blocks of Broadway were planted in memory of George Lamason, founder and a past president. Each spring Broadway is bright with blossoms from these projects. March is not far away!! Now, can we figure out how to eliminate the muddy utility strips along Broadway from Fourth to Sixth Streets? Can we make those strips green again? Or should we consider trying to brick in the strips? What can we do to make these two unsightly pedestrian and vehicle ways look good?