As you begin your tour, please enjoy the Blue Grass Trust's recording of Frank X Walker reading his poem, "Ode to the East End." The poem is displayed as a mural on the side of the MET at 576 E. Third Street and functions as the beginning of this tour.
Before the Civil War, the land that now constitutes the East End neighborhood was mostly dotted with large estates owned by Lexington's elite. Free Black individuals typically lived alongside white residents in the urban core. But burgeoning racial prejudice during Reconstruction, coupled with a massive influx of African Americans who had vacated the rural hinterland and the homes of their former enslavers, led to the creation of racially uniform enclaves on the city’s outskirts from the 1870s onwards.
The East End, as we know it today, was actually composed of smaller neighborhoods named Gunntown, Kinkeadtown, and Goodloetown after the white landowners who had subdivided their estates. Similar settlements existed on the northern fringes of the city (Brucetown) and the southern border (Pralltown, Davis Bottom, Adamstown). Much of this land was sold at lower prices due to its poor drainage or proximity to cemeteries and stockyards. These lots, which ranged from approximately 24 to 50 feet wide, often lay along alleys or dead-ends and were relatively hidden from public view.
By the late nineteenth century, prominent Black doctors, builders, and jockeys had made the thriving East End their home. By casting a spotlight on these individuals and the environment they inhabited, this tour emphasizes the East End’s core role in Lexington’s history and stresses the necessity (and urgency) of its continued preservation.