LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Parks Advisory Board has unanimously approved a request to rename Cheapside Park to Henry A. Tandy Centennial Park.
"Renaming Cheapside Park in honor of one of Lexington's most remarkable, successful black entrepreneurs is important considering the history that has occurred in this space," said Mayor Linda Gorton in a news release. "The renaming of Cheapside Park helps bridge our past, present, and future … we are looking ahead to a brighter future for Lexington over the next 100 years."
For years, Cheapside Park in downtown Lexington has been a controversial spot. Located between Upper Street and Mill Street, Cheapside was the center of slave trading in Kentucky before the Civil War.
Activist group Take Back Cheapside has been working with city leaders since 2018 to transform the space to make it more inclusive.
"We know that the renaming of the space will not change the atrocities that happened in Cheapside or make it an inclusive place," said Take Back Cheapside Co-Founder DeBraun Thomas. "It is, however, a much-needed step for the true healing and reconciliation that our community needs. Mr. Tandy's legacy is tied directly to the bricks laid in the Old Courthouse and the road he paved for the success of others."
Henry Tandy was a freed slave who moved to Lexington from Estill County in 1865 and worked in construction on many buildings, some of which still stand today. He joined Alfred Byrd and formed a masonry contracting company called Tandy & Byrd. His company's most notable project was the historic 1899 courthouse, where more than 1.5 million bricks were used to build it. Some of the bricks are still there even after the courthouse's renovation in 2018.
"He was a great architect," said Take Back Cheapside Co-Founder Russell Allen. "He was an enslaved person who became free, and then went through the process of kind of working his way to be one of the wealthiest Black folks in this area. So just trying to kind of live and like tell more stories of Lexington and with him having some of you know fingerprints on that downtown area ... it just made a lot of sense."
Tandy was also admired for his leadership roles in the community, including being a founding member and trustee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lexington.
"As far as Henry Tandy, he is, of course, he's a Black Lexingtonian," said Allen. "And I think conversations that were had just talking about what type of cities do we see or do we see cities that are Black folks from where they are, you know? A lot of times, you see ... Martin Luther King, of course, on every street, and now, President Barack Obama. And just things like that and while they're great figures, of course, there's so many figures within our city that are just as deserving."
The name change will now be heard by the Lexington Urban County Council next month. If approved, Henry A. Tandy Centennial Park will join nine existing Lexington parks named after prominent African Americans: George Washington Carver, Charles Young, Frederick Douglass, Paul L. Dunbar, Isaac Murphy, Lou Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young, and William Wells Brown.
"When we first started 'Take Back Cheapside' in 2016 and kind of the Confederate monument debate started, there was a lot more hesitance," said Allen. "A lot more, you know, a lot more folks wanting to do 'research' to kind of figure out where they want to be on these issues and a lot of folks just afraid to step out on these issues, and this and this time around, after the work we've kind of laid here in Lexington, and we've worked to get the monuments removed from Cheapside Park was kind of built that goodwill up so that we can, re-visit this when, you know, everybody has fresh eyes everybody has fresh spirits, and we're able to, kind of, like I said, build on that work and finish that off."