Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Avenue of Champions Question

Earlier today one of my more infrequent visitors did a search on Google which was oddly specific ”when was the few blocks of Euclid avenue that runs through the University of Kentucky named "Avenue of Champions?". I don’t know if they got their answer or not (but I doubt from the sites listed on the response screen that I saw. Mrs. Sweeper and I both thought that this is just up my alley, so here is my take on an answer.

The street segments in question date from the 1880’s and were an extension of Winslow St that was part of the Stephens & Winslow plat which covered the west side of S. Limestone from Maxwell to Winslow and almost to Broadway. The construction firm of Stephens & Winslow built the structure recognized as Henry Clay’s law office and Winslow Street is probably named for Mr. Winslow. In the late 1880’s this street(just a dirt path) led to a subdivision of narrow lots and shotgun shanties known as Adamstown and formed the northern border of the State College property.

One again I turn to the Lexington Library’s History Index for some headlines and quotes. After the turn of the last century, the University folks started asking for help from the city fathers. First of they wanted the dirt path upgraded to a street, as shown below.
"Board of Works "Through Assistant City Engineer J. White Guyn an urgent request from the State University people has been communicated the Board of Public Works to have Winslow street extending from South Limestone cast towards the university ball park improved.
Lexington Leader Oct. 12, 1909
Now, one has to realize that the Aylesford subdivision had been built on the east side of Rose St (formerly called Van Pelt) starting in 1904 and contained a wide paved thoroughfare named Euclid Ave. Also the university ball park referred to was the old Stoll Field, now the location of the Singletary Center for the Arts.

The city took its time to research and reply.
Winslow Street not property of city and not legal to repair same.
Lexington Herald Dec. 28, 1911
Even so, two years later the street improvements were still being talked about. And still being held up by a select few, as we see below.
"Winslow Street to be improved""The only reason that Winslow Street, which borders the State University, is not now a wide, well-improved street, is because of the request made by the members of the State University faculty to postpone action," said Mayor Cassidy on Wednesday morning. "The construction of an improved street from Limestone to Rose Street is necessary in order to give proper facilities to traffic in that part of the city and would have been done in the first year of my term if I had had my way," continued Mayor Cassidy.
Lexington Leader Dec. 10, 1913
The Adamstown area was one of a handful of small “colored communities” inside the city’s one mile radius city limits as detailed in this Leader piece.
"Eight Little Towns in Lexington "Reporters commentary on eight "towns" in the corporate city limits of Lexington. He describes the boundaries of Pralltown, Irishtown, Yellmantown, Brucetown, Smithtown, Taylortown, Goodloetown and Adamstown. In some cases the derivation of the name of the "town" is given.
Lexington Leader Feb. 1, 1914
And apparently this sparked some interest in the area by local investors and developers, as we see here.
"Aims at colored part of Winslow and Adamstown "The most interesting development in the real estate world this week is the announcement by Patrick Devereux that he has practically competed plans for the complete elimination of Adamstown and Winslow Street as a colored section, and is now perfecting plans for the transformation of the entire section bounded by College View Avenue, Limestone street, the State University campus and Rose Street, with modern public improvements and restrictions.
Lexington Leader Aug. 2, 1914
And after about 6 years of talking (and I am sure the proper advance notification)work began .
Grading on Winslow Street from South Limestone to Rose Street and laying of asphalt begins.
Lexington Herald Feb. 5 1915
Then, almost 2YEARS later.
Winslow Street opened to traffic; just completed and covered with asphalt from Limestone to Rose Street, 1800 feet.
Lexington Herald Nov. 4, 1916
Then there came a break for World War I and the “Roaring Twenties” hit the university area. Fraternities were in
"$25,000 capital "Articles of incorporation of the Harold A. Pulliam Sigma Nu Memorial Association which will soon erect a fraternity house on Winslow street opposite the University of Kentucky campus.
Lexington Leader Mar. 1, 1920

Sigma Chi files application to erect fraternity house for $30,000 on Winslow Street.
Lexington Herald May 6, 1920
The University started buying property for the dormitories and other commercial developers brought Harrison St and Lexington Ave on to Winslow near the fraternity houses which then brought the street closer in function to the road to the east, than to the narrower one to the west. Thus the city again stepped in and did the following.
Names of streets changed Drake from Main to High to Grant Street, Alfred Street to Hilton Avenue, Winslow East of Limestone to be Euclid Avenue.
Lexington Herald Nov. 21, 1925
On the south side of the street, the University built a gymnasium for their basketball team and hired a young coach named Adolph Rupp, and we all know what that started. A little later they built a new football stadium and eventually hired a coach, one Paul “Bear” Bryant, and he developed a pretty good football team. So much so, that by the late ‘40s they were talking about a new basketball facility across from the football field, bought the property, and built Memorial Coliseum. The basketball Wildcats had won 3 NCAA Championships in four years and the football Wildcats were on their way to 2 out of 3 bowl games in as many years.

The University then gathered as much hubris as they could muster and asked the city council to rename the section that ran between the two sports facilities, which they did in early April 1951.
"'Avenue of Champions' Likely New Name For Block of Euclid "The section of Euclid Avenue, between Limestone and Rose Streets, soon may be known as the "Avenue of Champions." The Board of City Commissioners will vote Thursday morning on an ordinance proposing the name change in honor of University of Kentucky football and basketball teams.
Lexington Leader Apr. 4, 1951
Paul “Bear” Bryant left in 1953 and it took another 8 years to win another NCAA basketball championship. Both men’s basketball and football have left the area now but some of us still remember the glory years and the street that celebrates them.

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