State office building named after historic Frankfort African American school

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - The future home of about 1,500 state workers now has a name.

Finance and Administration Cabinet officials hosted a naming ceremony Tuesday for the building at 500 Mero St. previously known as simply “the new state office building.”

A few dozen people waited in anticipation during a presentation by Secretary William Landrum III called “honoring the past, moving to the future” for the unveiling. The sign outside the building’s lobby will now proclaim “The Mayo-Underwood Building” in honor of a significant institution in Frankfort’s history.

Landrum said the name is ultimately to recognize the roots of the community, specifically the Mayo-Underwood School, which served African American students.

“Unfortunately, we cannot undo some of the injustices, but we can remember and recognize what was here before,” Landrum said of segregated public schools.

Several local officials attended the unveiling. They said they were surprised but pleased with the name honoring such a significant institution in the community’s history.

“I applaud Secretary Landrum and staff for remembering the heritage of this area,” said Franklin County Fiscal Court Judge-Executive Huston Wells. “He never lost sight of the history.”

“I’m so touched by the building's name, especially to honor the citizens in the area,” said Frankfort Mayor Bill May. “They went to school in this area, and it honors the past as we move to the development of our future.”

As Landrum spoke before the veiled sign, he remembered March 2018 in the moments before the Capital Plaza Tower was imploded. Landrum said that since the building crumbled, an excitement about downtown Frankfort has risen from the dust cloud.

“We’re not standing on ground we’ve already taken,” Landrum told the crowd. “We’re moving forward, and there’s a new vibrancy going on downtown. That’s grateful to everyone here because you’re a part of that. But history is important.”

Landrum said the area formerly known as “The Craw” or “The Bottom” was a place “where trouble could be stirred,” including flooding, crime and poverty.

“There was a closeness and a cohesiveness in this community,” Landrum said. “Everyone was struggling together. Everyone was a neighbor overcoming difficult situations.”

Landrum said among the people and the establishments of The Craw, there were landmarks like the Mayo-Underwood School. It was a large, brick building on the ground where the current state building is situated.

“It is remembered by many as an impressive social institution rather than an imposing physical structure,” Landrum said. “It continues to be an enduring memory within the community as many graduates have gone on to be lawyers, doctors, teachers and many civic leaders.”

Landrum said that 23 state offices and 1,500 workers will be consolidated into the building.

The Mayo-Underwood building is still a couple months away from being operational, officials said. State employees are expected to begin occupying the building in October.

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