Deweese Street, often called the “do as you please street”, was, by the late 1800s, the center of culture for the East End and the site of numerous prosperous African-American businesses. The Lyric Theater and Sterling Barbershop are two such examples.
The variety of businesses, including clothing and grocery stores, beauty and barber shops, insurance companies, entertainment, and other services enabled residents to take care of daily needs. All were an easy walk, making the East End the walkable, mixed use neighborhood planners seek to create today.
With integration in the 1950s, the role of Deweese Street began to diminish as businesses were able to move to different areas or, in the case of insurance companies, were bought by larger companies. An exception were beauty and barber shops and funeral homes that continued to provide services to East End residents.
In 2016 the Kentucky Historical Society, in partnership with the Urban League of Fayette County, Kentucky Educational Television, and the Lexington Convention Center and Visitors Bureau unveiled a historic marker that describes the history of Deweese Street and its importance as the African American Business District.
Follow this link to listen to a collection of oral histories centered around the East End and including Deweese Street.