LEXINGTON, Ky. — Mayor Linda Gorton Friday announced the Parks Advisory Board has unanimously approved a request to rename Cheapside Park. The approved name changes the park to Henry A. Tandy Centennial Park.
Renaming Cheapside Park continues a phased-in approach to improve the public space. “Over the past several years, positive changes have occurred around our Historic Courthouse,” Gorton said. “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. 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.”
In 1780, this area in the center of downtown Lexington was set aside as a public square for a market and a courthouse. The market area was named Cheapside, a name early Lexington residents brought with them from England. Over the years the public square in Lexington served as a gathering place for numerous public events, happy celebrations and other events including, prior to 1863, the buying and selling of slaves.
For the past few months, the city has been communicating with organizers of Take Back Cheapside. The citizen group helped lead the effort to have controversial statues removed from Cheapside Park in 2018. Additionally, a historical marker, produced through the efforts of the Lexington Alumni Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, has been restored and returned to the public square. The marker describes the history of slavery in Fayette County and the Cheapside slave auction block.
“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.”
“It’s been important to have these conversations with DeBraun Thomas and Russell Allen,” Gorton said. “Their vision and leadership to transition this space to one that recognizes our past and looks toward our future is amazing. The partnership with Take Back Cheapside has produced big changes to this public space and will continue in the future.”
Henry A. Tandy, a freed slave, moved to Lexington and became an important figure in the construction of many buildings in the area. Tandy joined Alfred Byrd to form the company Tandy & Byrd, which became a leading masonry contractor in Lexington. The company’s most notable project was the construction of the Historic 1899 Courthouse. According to Tandy, over 1.5 million bricks were laid to build the load-bearing brickwork of the courthouse. He was admired for his leadership roles in the community and was a founding member and trustee of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Lexington. Henry A. Tandy is buried in Cove Haven Cemetery.
The renaming of Cheapside Park will go before the Urban County Council for consideration in August. 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.