Constitution School

In 1904, the Trustees of the Colored Public Schools petitioned the city council to use funds from taxes paid by African Americans to build the East End’s Constitution School (also known as Colored School No. 2). The resultant brick, vaguely Italianate building consisted of two wings with a recessed entry portico. Under the supervision of Principal J. B. Caulder (pictured in the fourth row of the first photograph), the school employed 14 teachers and boasted a student body of over 500 by the 1930s.

While the school underwent minor additions during the early twentieth century, the city hired the firm of Bayless, Clotfelter, Gray and Associates to design a significant remodel in 1954. The $300,000 project called for the addition of wall-to-wall windows, plastic dome skylights, the removal of wooden staircases, and the reorientation of the entry to Corral Street. This major renovation, which was funded by a $620,000 bond raised by the Board of Education, was intended to bolster the school’s capacity, as the construction of the nearby Aspendale housing complex had led to overcrowding.

Despite this investment, the future of the school was uncertain by the 1960s. While the Board of Education aimed to obtain adjacent land within the urban renewal zone for an expansion, the League of Women Voters advocated relocating the school entirely to a more central location. Once the Urban County Council took over the building in 1975, it was largely “left to rot.” This body approved the razing of a wing in 1977 that had been heavily damaged by vandals and decay.

This demolition by neglect did not go unchallenged. Reverend Arthur James of the nearby Phillips Memorial CME Church (which was itself a Black school prior to 1901) ardently advocated for the revitalization of the East End through the preservation of its built environment. He intended for the Constitution School to serve as the cornerstone of this effort and suggested it could accommodate a library, clinic, and senior center if properly rehabilitated. As James put it, “if I live in one room or two rooms, that’s my castle. I’m trying to get folks to fix up and stay where they are.”

Unfortunately, his crusade to save Constitution School was unsuccessful.



135 Constitution Street, Lexington, Kentucky (school no longer standing)