This structure was originally built in 1891 as the Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church. The church served the historic neighborhood surrounding the building in the South Hill neighborhood. The Presbyterian community eventually outgrew the church, and in 1914 the Orthodox Jewish congregation Ohavay Zion purchased the building.
It is assumed that John McMurtry and Cincinnatus Shyrock were responsible for the design of the buildings erected in this time. The district was found historically significant for its architecture and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The styles of this area include: “Late-19th and 20th Century Revivals, Mid-19th Century Revival, Late Victorian” (National Register of Historic Places). The boundary of this area includes S. Broadway, W. High Street, S. Limestone, and Pine Street, creating a current transition between the University property and downtown Lexington.
The primary use of this building over time has been serving people. The property was purchased in March 1880 by the First Presbyterian Church, which was later dedicated and known as the Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church. It was a, “handsome brick church, trimmed in stone, lighted by gas, heated by a furnace and furnished with modern pews, capable of seating comfortably four hundred worshipers” (the Church Record).
Later, the church was sold to the Ohavay Zion congregation in 1912. The Jewish community thrived in this space for 75 years. According to an article written by Erik Carlson for SmileyPete, this congregation steered from traditional orthodox and allowed an integrated practice of worship between genders. Traditionally during worship, men and women are divided by a mechitza, but in 120 Maxwell Street, there were three rows of seating, one for women, one for men, and the middle co-ed. The congregation later moved to a new location on Alumni and listed the building for $475,000 in 1986.
The most recent adaptive work was managed by Lynn Cravens, an architect at Cravens & Associates sometime between 1986 and 1989. This work mainly included the addition of a loft to increase dining capacity and reserve space for larger parties. Several elements of the original use have remained and greatly contribute to the atmosphere of Joe Bologna’s. The originality of the exterior has hardly changed--the brick is intact and the original stain glass windows glow with ambiance late at night.