The history of Davis Bottom offers extraordinary insights into the development of a strong, tight-knit, working-class neighborhood in Lexington, Kentucky. Established in 1867, Davis Bottom is one of about a dozen ethnic enclaves built near downtown Lexington after the Civil War. The first residents were mostly African American families who moved to urban centers in search of work, greater security and educational opportunities. Davis Bottom was also home to white European and Appalachian families who established strong family roots and life-long bonds with their neighbors. There are relatively few archival records about life in Davis Bottom. Therefore, every historical document, newspaper account, photo and description provides a rare glimpse into the valuable lives of the people who made Davis Bottom one the most diverse neighborhoods in Kentucky.

Figure 1: DeRoode Street, Davis Bottom by Van Deren Coke, 1940. Courtesy, Van Deren Coke Collection, The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky.

General History


Establishment (1860s-1890s)

The Second Generation (1900s-1940s)

Living Memories (1950s-2010s)

Fourth of July, Lexington, 1867


William Willard Davis

The Hathaway Family and Isaac Scott Hathaway

Rudolph DeRoode


Master’s Project: “East End and Davis Bottom: A Study of the Demographic and Landscape Changes of Two Neighborhoods in Lexington,” by Heather M. Dollins, 2011

Newspaper: The Cincinnati Commercial, July 8, 1867

Newspaper: The Lexington Leader, “Valley of Neglect,” December 19, 1980

Artwork: “Fourth of July,” Lexington, 1867

Artwork: “Davis Bottom,” 1890s

Lesson Plans for Teaching with Fourth of July and Davis Bottom artwork

William Willard Davis:  Civil Righs Speech - July 4, 1867 as published in the Cincinnati Commercial July 8, 1867 

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