The demographics and racial makeup of the North End has been in flux over its long history. As Lexington's outlots were subdivided in the late 1800’s, the North End was at its highest level of class and race diversity. In the early 1900s, as the neighborhood became increasingly industrial those who could afford to move elsewhere (including wealthy white landowners) did so, causing shifts in the neighborhood’s racial makeup.
In the 1930s, with the blessing of both state and federal officials, U.S. Highways 27 and 68 were routed into Lexington from the north via North Broadway. North Limestone was no longer the primary north-south thoroughfare for the first time in the city’s history, a change that would result in a reduction in visibility and economic strength.
A residential security map dated 1936 and produced by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), a government-sponsored corporation founded in 1933, shows many parts of the North End as being in the two lowest grades of security. This map guided investment and development through the restriction of access to home loans for property poor and minority communities, otherwise known as “redlining”. By labeling areas in the North End in low-grade security categories, HOLC’s security map presented barriers to individuals wanting purchasing homes in the area. These divisions tracked almost exclusively with race, and areas noted in previous parts of this section are almost all in the lowest-possible grade.
From 1920 to 1940, the North End did not experience as massive a flight of wealthy residents as was experienced further south along North Limestone -between Main and Third streets- but the population did change. This was largely due to the outmigration patterns that accompanied automobile use, leaving behind those that could not afford to own one. According to the city’s 1939 housing report, housing units in Brucetown, as well as those on York and Eddie streets, were more than 50% African-American.
Some residents could afford to move from the North End to new subdivisions outside the city limits because of the ubiquity of the automobile. Although the neighborhood was once the center of Lexington’s transit system, public transit use had waned in the latter part of the 20th century. According to the comprehensive plan of 1967, fewer than 5% of “vehicular passenger trips were handled by public transit in 1965” with rates expected to continue to fall “unless we can do something to properly change our riding habits and preferences – and we’d better!” Those that could not afford to own an automobile were again largely left behind.
Another indicator of neglect for the North End’s population can be seen in Lexington’s 1967 comprehensive plan detailing the fallout shelter plan for the city. For those that lived below Fifth Street, their fallout shelter was within walking distance in downtown Lexington. Those that lived north of Fifth Street, largely without access to automobiles, were not placed at the shelter closest to them, but instead were expected to somehow make it to the University of Kentucky, leaving North End residents at a strong disadvantage in the event of a nuclear attack.
New industrial operations, like the opening of the wastepaper baling operation in 1974 on Luigart Court, near North Limestone Street, provided walkable jobs in 1974, but did little for neighboring property values. This kind of industry was noisy, and would not have been desirable or welcome in wealthier neighborhoods, and was more than likely located in the North End due to its perceived status as a lower-class neighborhood.