KHS collection featured in upcoming exhibit with the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage
Oct 31, 2020 – The Kentucky Historical Society is pleased to announce a new outgoing loan to the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage (KCAAH) in Louisville. The KCAAH exhibit will feature artifacts from the KHS permanent collection. These artifacts include some of the signature objects from a mid-20th century business called “Your Valet Shop.” By all accounts, the business located near 6th and Muhammad Ali Blvd (then Walnut Street), was more than a barbershop in downtown Louisville. It was a tailoring business, a beauty shop, a gathering place, and a social club. Ed and Amy Hamilton operated the shop at the heart of the “old” Walnut Street business district during segregation.
In the late 19th century, West Walnut Street between 6th and 13th Street grew into a thriving community. The street was home to vibrant nightlife, restaurants, and shops to meet Louisville’s African American population’s everyday needs which were excluded from many white-owned businesses in other neighborhoods. However, desegregation beginning in the 1950s and accelerating in the ’60s led to a decline on Walnut Street, and “urban renewal” in the 1960s spelled the thriving neighborhood’s end. Like so many cities in America, urban redevelopment drove out small, locally-owned businesses and created vacancies within the cityscapes we still live among today.
KHS is excited to assist KCAAH in the return of a shining star of “old” Walnut Street to their headquarters in the renovated historic Street Railway Complex. This complex is just up the street from where Hamilton’s shop once operated. KCAAH plans to use the loaned objects to create the backdrop and add authenticity to a multimedia display, and its production is set to be completed by the spring of 2021. The display will incorporate the memories and voice of celebrated Kentucky artist Ed Hamilton Jr., who spent his early life in his parents’ shop. Hamilton Jr. donated these objects and more to KHS in 2005.