Looking back: Constitution Square’s early days

Published 8:24 am Monday, October 9, 2017

It is hard to imagine what Constitution Square Park looked like before the city decided to close First Street and raze all but one building on the east side Second Street.

By closing the street and removing the Second Street African American business district, the park was more than doubled in size.

Six historic properties in the enlarged park were restored:

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The original Fisher’s Row that was discovered after the removal of the added structures; “little red school house”; and Grayson’s Tavern were restored and are the only remaining structures on the east side of South First Street, and the Goldsmith House at the corner of South Second and Walnut streets.

The other properties restored near to their original condition are Watts-Bell House, adjacent to the row house, and Ayres Silversmith House.

McDowell House and Museum, and Apothecary Shop are the only historic buildings that remain on the west side of South Second.

Doric Lodge No. 18, built in the 1920s, was one of the tallest buildings in the South Second Street business district. It had three-stories with the Lodge using the two top floors and bottom floor housed restaurants, barber shops, billiard parlors and other businesses.

The Lodge building was razed along with the other structures during the Urban Renewal Project.

Plans for the renewal project called for destruction of 63 structures in the district with owners getting $15,000 plus the appraised value of their property, according to articles in The Advocate-Messenger archives.

Doric Lodge officers turned down the first offer for their building, and took the second offer of $34,000 plus $2,500 as displacement payment, and the building was razed. The Lodge purchased the Odd Fellows Lodge at 215 West Walnut Street as its new home.

The Domestic Economy Club and Busy Sunshine clubs owned the Goldsmith House and used it for their club house. The two clubs formed the Women’s Federation.

The house was to be restored by the Federation, but the women’s groups were forced to move after accepting a negotiated settlement from Urban Renewal officials.

The three-acre park was the site where Kentucky’s Constitution was formed in 1792. The park was established in April 1945 as John G. Weisiger Memorial State Park on land donated by the Weisiger family. It was part of the Kentucky State Parks system from 1937 to 2012.

Boyle County Fiscal Court currently owns the park.

The historic buildings are occupied by Danville-Boyle County Industrial Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau and Heart of Danville and other offices.

The small brick structure, apparently used as a school in early Danville, was among the buildings saved and restored during the Urban Renewal Project.

A photograph of Fisher’s Row at Main and First streets shows how the additions were made just before it was restored in June 1973.