Fayette County

Iconic Gardenside Plaza bus shelter restored

Folks gathered to celebrate the restoration of the iconic 1959 bus shelter with new period-appropriate ceramic mural by Guy Kemper at Gardenside Shopping Center at the intersection of Alexandria and Darien drives in Lexington, Ky., Sunday, June 26, 2016.
Folks gathered to celebrate the restoration of the iconic 1959 bus shelter with new period-appropriate ceramic mural by Guy Kemper at Gardenside Shopping Center at the intersection of Alexandria and Darien drives in Lexington, Ky., Sunday, June 26, 2016. Herald-Leader

The Gardenside Plaza bus stop on Alexandria Drive was Lexington’s first covered bus stop when it was built in 1961.

On Sunday, it provided much-needed shade from a punishing June sun at a dedication ceremony and celebration of the iconic mid-century bus stop’s restoration.

Built by Gardenside Plaza developers Pierson-Trapp for $8,500, the unique and iconic shelter had fallen into disrepair in recent years. The lights no longer worked. Some letters were missing. Graffiti tagged its interior.

Thanks to donations from private and public groups including Pierson-Trapp, the city of Lexington, Arts in Motion, Lextran and Lexington Directions, the group was able to replace and restore the lettering, fix the lights and hire artist Guy Kemper to make a mural for the shelter’s interior. The work was completed in November but the group waited until better weather to hold Sunday’s neighborhood celebration of the restoration of the bus stop, said Councilwoman Peggy Henson, who represents the Gardenside area.

“I hope to see a lot of good things come from this,” Henson said, who spearheaded and coordinated the restoration of the bus stop.

Kemper said he used Miami Beach architecture as his inspiration. Karen Hudson, an architectural historian who volunteered to research the history of the shelter, said the developers had spent a lot of time in Miami Beach.

The bus stop is not just decorative; it’s well used, said Jill Barnett, assistant general manager of Lextran.

“Our Versailles Road route is one of our most heavily traveled routes in all of Lexington,” Barnett said.

Several neighborhood organizations joined together to host the dedication that also included dancing from Casa de La Cultura Hispana de Lexington, swing dancing from Arthur Murray Dance studio, as well as several local bands. Some of the neighborhoods that participated in the event include Port Royal, Skycrest, Pine Meadow, West Gardenside and the Lane.

Susan Spalding, president of Gardenside neighborhood association, said it hopes to make the celebration — “Gardenside Pride” — an annual event. Gardenside Plaza was one of the the city’s first surburban developments in the early 1960s.

At-large Councilman Richard Moloney, who attended Sunday’s dedication, grew up in the area.

“I remember when kids use to get off at that bus stop to cross street to go to the aquatic center,” Moloney said. “That was where I learned to swim.”

The aquatic center and ice rink — also built by Pierson-Trapp — is no longer there. But Moloney remembers all the stores that were once in the shopping center — the grocer A & P, Dawahares and a Baskin-Robbins that drew people from all over the city.

Area residents want to see Gardenside Plaza restored to what it once was — the center of retail for the west end of town. There have been some recent victories. Camelot West, a strip club, recently shuttered its doors.

“We would like to see a place where we can all come together,” Spalding said.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall

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