Folks are a bit jittery nowadays when they hear of the possible sale of a downtown building that is wrapped not only in history, but in charm and memories.
With each trek down Main Street, past the vacant lot where once stood buildings that held the charm of yesteryear, people are reminded of what happens when big future dreams cause old memories to fall.
That's why some people are holding their breath over the news of the potential sale of the old First African Baptist Church at the corner of Short and Deweese streets.
They fear that the building will be razed to make way something more modern.
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Joe Rosenberg, who has a sale contract with contingencies with Central Christian Church, which owns the building, said that won't happen.
"I have no intentions of tearing it down," Rosenberg said. "That is the good news."
He declined to reveal the specifics of his plans for the building, saying only that there is a lot of work to be done.
"I want to get the work done first and then announce," he said.
"I don't think the current owners want to tear it down either," Rosenberg said. "The only way that would happen is if our contract doesn't go through and they sell it to someone who might tear it down. I've gone on record and said it won't be torn down."
The building holds a lot of memories for the Rev. Bishop Carter III, pastor of Bethsaida Baptist Church in Lexington.
"It is an historical landmark," Carter said. "That is the church I was raised in, baptized in and ordained in. My mother was an officer there for years."
The building dates to the 1850s, but First African Baptist Church bought the land in 1833, when the congregation was led by the Rev. London Ferrill, a freed slave from Virginia who gained a great deal of prominence in Lexington.
First African Baptist Church, founded in 1790, is the third-oldest black Baptist congregation in the United States, and the oldest in Kentucky.
First African Baptist sold the building to Central Christian Church in 1986. It was renovated to house the Central Christian Child Care Center, which operates independently of the church.
The decision to sell to Central Christian, Carter said, wasn't easy. But, he said, the new owners said their intentions were to create a day care and a holistic center.
"It was a church buying a church," Carter said.
I understand that sense of assurance that one house of God would do right by another house of God, but still, the sale meant that the founding congregation gave up rights to the building.
The Rev. Nathl L. Moore, pastor of First African Baptist, agreed.
"We sold it," he said. "Once we sold it, we relinquished further control or say-so to some degree."
Moore said he wasn't a part of the church when the sale occurred and doesn't have the roots in the church that some members do.
Obviously the church needed more room, and that compelled them to move.
"One of the hardest things imaginable is to get black folk to move once they have grown up in a facility," said the Rev. Willis Polk, pastor of Imani Baptist Church, which recently moved to a new building. "I have an appreciation of historic places like that, but to do 20th-century ministry, they knew they had to relocate."
Moore said he spoke with some of the "senior saints" in his church who were an integral part of the congregation when it was on Short Street. He said those elder congregants toured the renovated building and discovered that the interior had been transformed and no longer looked like the sanctuary in which they had worshipped.
"It is really just the shell," Moore said. "What the church had done began the process that took away the intimate feelings that the senior saints had. It no longer served the purpose when the church was there. From the senior saints' perspective, it is already gone."
Still, he said, that doesn't mean it wouldn't hurt if the building were destroyed. It is a valuable historical site in African-American history, a history that has fewer and fewer existing points of reference.
"A cynical part of me says they will do what they want to do," Moore said. "It may be too late. If they do, then I think they should erect some kind of historic marker highlighting the history."
But Carter isn't ready to give up the fight, if necessary, to keep the historic building standing. He plans to call on a powerful partner to join his team.
"We can stop it with prayer," Carter said. "Much prayer, much power. No prayer, no power."