Proposed Paducah community center would pay tribute to legacy of Lincoln High
A newly formed organization is hoping to build a new community center on Paducah’s Southside that honors the memory of what was once the center of Black education in the western Kentucky city.
Founded by Paducah-McCracken County NAACP President J.W. Cleary, the Lincoln High School Historical Foundation aims to construct a brand new gathering place for community members on the site of its namesake institution.
“We are hoping that the community will get behind us,” Cleary said earlier this week. “We feel like this will be an investment for the city of Paducah. If you have one group in a community up and another down the community can only go so high whereas if we all work together we can make a bigger difference.”
Cleary wants the community center to have the same mission as the high school – to help nurture the community – and, to that end, he hopes to partner with local organizations in western Kentucky, including Murray State University and the Oscar Cross Boys & Girls Club of Paducah. He’s also seeking the aid of private donors.
Lincoln High School, built in 1908, was designed to teach over 100 students and served the community for nearly 60 years before its closure following the integration of local schools in the 1960s before being demolished in 1999.
The school no longer stands, but Clearly wishes it hadn’t been demolished. He purchased the land the school used to occupy in the Paducah’s Southside neighborhood after he realized that the city had grown the W.C. Young Community Center.
“The goal of the foundation is to bring the history of the school and African American community back to life by communicating the history of the upper town neighborhood and the importance of Lincoln High School in the African American community,” Cleary wrote in his proposal.
Once built, he hopes the center will live up to Lincoln High School’s legacy by not only preserving its memory, and meeting the needs of local nonprofits and community groups.
Cleary hopes the proposed community center will hold 400 to 500 people for events. He says the higher capacity will allow for more diversity, which he says is the main motivator for the project, which he says is the main motivator for the project.
The estimated $3 million project, according to Cleary’s proposal, would include an auditorium, a playground and outdoor sports courts, spaces for afterschool programs, a kitchen and offices in place to help community members build small businesses. There will also be a room dedicated to preserving the history of the school.
Paducah Mayor George Bray is supportive of the project. He told WPSD Local 6 earlier this week that the continued revitalization of the city’s Southside is a priority for his administration.
“Any new structure, any new building, any new investment that's going into the Southside is positive, because any buildings around that tend to get upgraded when there's a new building going in,” Bray said.
An Oct. 27 luncheon is being planned to discuss details regarding the proposed community center with potential investors from the community.