Lansdowne Neighborhood Oral History Program

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Women’s Voices of the Lansdowne Neighborhood Oral History Program

The Archive Committee of the Lansdowne Neighborhood Association and the community of Lexington, Kentucky is gathering, preserving and protecting the history of the Lansdowne area in partnership with the Louie B. Nunn Oral History Center

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Isabel Yates
Neighborhood Association president,
former LFUCG vice mayor

Isabel Yates in August 2009

Interview by Beverly Futrell, August 3, 2009 Yates describes her birthplace and upbringing: “Everybody knew what they were supposed to do and we didn’t get away with anything.” She tells of her education, including that she took a course in radio at NY State U. – she taught English at NC State then Newberry College.  She tells of teaching at Rockhill High School when her husband Wilson Yates was practicing law; they moved to Louisville with their two children for Wilson’s job with Kentucky Central Life Insurance until it was bought by Garvice Kincaid in Lexington, so they moved to Lexington in 1963.  They built their own house in Lansdowne; a cousin in Winchester gave them “an introduction party” to meet the social elites of Lexington.  Yates became chairman of the Metropolitan Club, and joined the Lexington Garden Club.  She describes her two part-time businesses: in the 1970s she and a partner started a shop “Track 2” in Midway to sell clothes they bought in New York.  She was the accountant after taking a course at Tates Creek High School at night on how to balance the books.  She said they “made enough to take our husbands to Europe.” The second business was Merit Tours, with Mary Ellen Reid (Sloan) in the 1980s because she saw how important it was to entertain the spouses during conferences and the importance of the tour guide would give the impression of the city, so that’s when she started reading about the history of the city, especially horse farms (Spendthrift) and luncheons. At the time only Mary Herrington of Bluegrass Tour Company was offering similar tours. She started with 36 people from Lexington with tours of the City and plays/ballets with a chartered bus – until her friend got breast cancer.  Most of her clients came from members of Lexington Country Club; most women were homemakers and members of the club to help the community, e.g., playground at Loudon House, TV for Seseme Street.  She remembers Pam Miller when on the Council called her to let her know that the incumbant for the 4th district was not running.  In 1991-92 she campaigned with her husband walking the street, learning as someone told her that “the best man for the job is a woman.” She won by more than 70% of the votes.  She took on her first leadership role on the Council because of flash floods in southern Nicholasville Road (Goodrich and Pensicola) – she started a committee on the issue with representatives from each district.  The city determined that it would be cheaper in the long run to buy and tore down the houses that were in the flood plains.  The death of her husband led to her decision not to run again for 4th district, so she held a press conference announcing it. But “after Christmas” she felt shee needed to work and so got a group of 10 people to plan out her campaign for vice mayor.  “I would have run for mayor if was younger.” She won again. Yates spoke highly of Pam Miller, saying Miller didn’t blame the former mayor for failures like the Basketball Museum and the Lyric; Brerton Jones sued the city “which was correct.” She remembered the efficiencies of Betty Bias, her assistant while Vice Mayor and who also helped two other council members. The Arboretum was first imagined by Fernita Wallace and co-founded with Yates and Jenny Long.  Yates was also the driving force to reclaim and protect McConnell Springs with the Lexington Directions club.  Together with historian Carolyn Wooley, Jessica Bell of Jonabell Farm (who was also on the Airport Board), she was determined that the Springs was “a part of the past and we should make the past available to the future.” Elaine Faithful, the mayor’s assistant, organized a charette at ES Goodbarn; and, Yates (with help from Foster Pettit and W.T. Young) raised the money.  BankOne was the presenting sponsor (with the first $50K).  Many volunteers helped clean up the debris.  She got the city staff to cart away 3000 tons of trash. The founders felt that education should be main thrust so that the Springs would serve as “an oasis for the people of Lexington.” She remembers some vandalism from “kids who didn’t want us in their little hiding places.” The parking lot needed a 6-foot foundation so she went back to BankOne for the $10K needed; and, Vulcan Materials that does the mining underneath was also generous. In 1985-86 building was started by KY American water funding of $100K with W.T. Young on the board. Burchfield and Thomas served as contractors, Morgan Mackelwayne was the architect for the building – the contractors did not charge their usual fee.Yates also introduced the Fairness Ordinance – this did not garner any lawsuits as was predicted.  Yates stated that the people of Lexington “resist change but we’ve come a long way to accepting diversity.”  When Pam Miller was on her way out as mayor, Yates decided not to run again. Also, she says: “I’m a great believer in term limits, we need new energy to get things done in a new way.” In 1995 Yates started the Lansdowne Neighborhood Association.  Natalie Wilson and Bill Summers were concerned about what was happening in the Lansdowne Bar & Grill Club (a private club with music and drinking but they weren’t charging the public a fee).  The neighborhood felt this was not a good atmosphere for kids who were swimming in the pool there. She also took on the beautification, especially the entrance way to the neighborhood.  Other issues raised were streetlights, city services, the boundaries of the neighborhood, and a neighborhood newsletter.  The park on Zandale Drive was controversial but has worked well as “a green space to ease suburban life.”

Barbara Johnson

Barbara Johnson of Lansdowne Neighborhood Association, 2009

 Interview by Beverly Futrell, August 10, 2009 by  J.W. Davis in 1966 as bookkeeper (Davis and C.B. McEachin were the developers of the Lansdowne Neighborhood).
Martha King
former President of Neighborhood AssociationMartha King of Lansdowne Neighborhood Association, 2009
 Interview by Pat Esrael
Thelma HendersonThelma Henderson of Lansdowne Neighborhood Association, 2009  Interview by Patricia Thornberry, February 5, 2010
Pat EsraelPat Esrael of Lansdowne Neighborhood Association, 2009  Interview by Beverly Futrell, July 22, 2009
Lenora and Larry Isenhour
Lenora and Larry Isenhour of Lansdowne Neighborhood Association
Interview by Patricia Thornberry of Lenora and Larry Isenhour, August 2009

Lenora graduated from U.K. with a B.A. and M.S. in Social Work; she is the aunt of noted Kentucky author, Barbara Kingsolver.  She became the Executive Director of the Volunteer Center in 1970 to match up volunteers with local agencies needing help (a role that Bluegrass United Way has taken on now).  She was a member of one of the first senior Girl Scout troops in Lexington, and her first job was with the Girl Scouts.
Janet TaoJanet Tao of Lansdowne Neighborhood Association, 2009  Interview by Patricia Thornberry & Beverly Futrell
Elenor Lee FoucheeElenor Lee Fouchee of Lansdowne Neighborhood Association, 2009 Interview by Patricia Thornberry, October 28, 2009
Janna Grayson and her father Cal GraysonJanna Grayson and her father Cal Grayson, Lansdowne Neighborhood Association, 2009 Interview by Patricia Thornberry & Beverly Futrell on May 17, 2010

Other Oral Histories

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