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Kentucky historian shares more of Henry A. Tandy’s life and legacy

Published: Jul. 25, 2020 at 10:51 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) -With the name of Cheapside Park one step closer to changing, there’s more to learn about the meaning behind the move.

The city’s Parks Advisory Board unanimously approved a proposal to rename the area “Henry A. Tandy Centennial Park.”

According to historian Foster Ockerman Jr with the Lexington History Museum, Tandy was born a slave in Estill County and grew to become one of Lexington’s most successful black entrepreneurs.

Ockerman said Tandy came to Fayette County at 17 after the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Lexington was the center of commerce, education, transportation, railroads, and of opportunity, and so he came looking for an opportunity to make a life for himself,” he said.

He worked as an apprentice for a photographer, which Ockerman said was comparable to working for Microsoft, a popular and new technology.

Ockerman said the teenager full of potential then worked for a masonry company and worked his way up in the ranks, building the business and a reputation.

“This is somebody that really knew his business, and that’s why he was selected for this important task,” he said.

The task of doing the brick work on the Lexington courthouse in 1898.

“To say that he laid the bricks for the historic courthouse doesn’t convey what that job meant,” Ockerman said.

Ockerman said he visited the courthouse during its renovation and observed the careful artistry and strategy of Tandy’s work.

“They really were dealing with more than just putting cement down and laying a brick over it, they understood the geometric and mathematical principles involved with putting together a structure,” he said.

When the odds were against him, in a time when the Jim Crow era was growing, Ockerman said Tandy found great success.

A man who laid down the very bricks we walk on would unknowingly lay the foundation for what could be the future.

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