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New Lexington App Aims For Architectural Appreciation

Josh James

Imagine an emblem for the smartphone age and you might picture a silhouette of pedestrians with their heads buried in their iPhones and Androids, but photographer Richard Griessman envisions an app that encourages users to look up.

The creators of LexArch Tour want Lexingtonians to pay more attention to the rich but frequently-ignored history spelled out through downtown architecture.

"There's a tendency we all have to often walk without seeing," Greissman notes. "When folks have seen early versions of this app or some of my photo studies, my architectural studies of buildings, they would say things like 'That building is downtown? Where is it? I've never seen that.'"

Born out of frustration with the 2008 demolition of a commercial district dating back more than a century to make way for the still-unrealized CentrePointe project, the LexArch Tour allows users to zero in on a selection of historical buildings downtown, track the structures through time, and pop in their earbuds for an audio narration by cultural geographer Karl Raitz.

"An African-American-owned construction company, Tandy & Bird, completed construction of the impressive four-story stone structure in 1900..." the voice option says, describing the Old Fayette County Courthouse. 

Greissman says the app, which was fostered and funded through the mayor's office, VisitLex, and the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation, aims not only to educate, but to influence future development in the heart of the city.

"The political agenda is to say, let's see what we have, realize how invaluable, how important this is as cultural capital and not let others tear down more parts of Lexington," he says.

Version 1.0 is now available for free in the Apple and Android app stores, with more information and buildings on the way in future iterations.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.