Photos from the Lexington Herald-Leader archives updated daily

Downtown Lexington, 1944

Posted on April 8, 2019 | in Uncategorized | by

Downtown view of Lexington, looking west down East Main Street, circa 1944. Click on the image for a closer look. On the left is the landmark Phoenix Hotel, which was demolished in 1981 and 1982 by Wallace Wilkinson, who planned to use the site to build the World Coal Center skyscraper. It was never built, and the site eventually became the Park Plaza Apartments and Phoenix Park. Up the right side is the Ben Ali Theater, which opened in 1913 at 121 East Main Street, across the street from the Phoenix Hotel. At four stories tall. It had a main auditorium, a balcony and a gallery, and 12 private boxes on each side, for a total seating capacity of 1,507. The floors had peacock-blue carpets with gold trim, and the walls were finished in ornamental plaster, with mosaic title floors and marble wainscoting. Built to house the top traveling play companies and grand opera, it was a vaudeville house in that medium’s heyday and again in the revival of the late 1940s and early 1950s. In its later days it showed movies, closing Sept. 9, 1964. Its last films were the James Bond movie “From Russia with Love” and “The Pink Panther.” It was torn town in 1965. Today it is the site of the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza. Next to the theater is the Ben Snyder department store. The store was founded in 1913 and had locations in Louisville, Paducah, Elizabethtown, Bowling Green and southern Indiana. This location operated from 1935 until 1980, leaving Wolf Wile’s as the only downtown Lexington department store. Herald-Leader Archive Photo

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