East 6th Street / Scott's Rollarena / Foster's Roller Skating (Lexington, KY)In 1958, Scott's Rollarena for "Whites Only," became Foster's Roller Skating for "Colored Patrons Only." The roller rink was located at 427 E. 6th Street in Lexington, KY, between Shropshire Avenue and Ohio Street. [Today, it is the location of Griffith's Market.] Foster's Roller Skating was a short-lived venture owned by Rowland S. Foster, who was born in 1899 and died in 1975. The previous business, Scott's Rollarena, owned by Gilbert W. Scott, had not always been located on 6th Street. The business opened just prior to 1940 and was located on National Avenue during the early years, then moved to 422 West Main Street and in 1952 moved to the 6th Street location. Negroes who lived in the area were against the rink moving to 6th Street, and a group went before the Board of City Commissioners to denounce the move of a "whites only" skating rink to what was fast becoming a predominately Negro neighborhood. The commissioners offered their sympathy to the Negroes and said they could do nothing about the "whites only" policy.
Looking back to the 1860s, East 6th Street had been considered the suburbs of Lexington [source: Prather's Lexington City Directory], and by the late 1890s, there were a few Colored families living on 6th Street [source: Emerson and Dark's Lexington Directory]. By 1939, there was a Colored neighborhood on E. 6th Street between Elm Tree Lane and Ohio Street, and Thomas Milton was the only Colored person living in the 400 block [source: Polk's Lexington (Fayette County, Ky.) City Directory]. The racial change to the neighborhood was not an easy transition; though the new neighborhood continued to exist in spite of the racial tension. Determined home owners would not succumb to threats and violence.
In October 1930, the colored families living on E. 6th Street between Elm Tree Lane and Ohio Street received threatening letters following the bombing of two homes. The letters warned the families to get out of the neighborhood. The homes of the Charles Jones family on Curry Avenue and of the Rhada Crowe family at 209 East 6th Street had both been blasted with dynamite. The Crowe family had been in their home just a week, and after the bombing they moved. The letters received by their neighbors were turned over to the chief of police, Ernest Thompson, and the other families were assured the Lexington Police Department would protect them. The colored families stayed, and the area continued to change.
By 1948 Negro home owners and business owners were buying property in the 400 block of E. 6th Street. [source: Polk's Lexington (Fayette County, Ky.) City Directory]. The businesses in the 400 block were Luella Oldham Beauty Shop-410 (Colored); Irene Keller Beauty Shop-412 (Colored); Sweeney's Confectionery-430; City Radio Service-439; and Blue Grass Market-441. The street address, 427 E. 6th Street, did not exist prior to 1950, but by 1952 there was a building at the address when Scott's Rollarena moved to its new location.
The protest against the "whites only" policy at the roller rink was one of the early and lesser known acts of the ongoing Civil Rights Movement in Lexington. In spite of the protests, Scott's Rollarena was at the 6th Street location for six years before the business closed in 1958. In May of that same year, Foster's Roller Skating opened in the same location for "Colored Patrons Only." A few short years later, the building at 427 E. 6th Street was listed as vacant in the 1961 Polk's Lexington (Fayette County, Ky) City Directory. In 1977, there was a grocery store in the building when it was destroyed by fire; arson was suspected.
For more see "City fathers give sympathy which fears rink will raise problem," Lexington Leader, 01/10/1952, p. 12; the ad for Foster's Roller Skating in the Lexington Leader, 05/08/1958; "Judge requests jury to probe house bombing," Lexington Leader, 10/06/1930, p. 1; "Family to move following blast," Lexington Leader, 10/03/1930, p. 1; "Police promise protection for Negro families," Lexington Leader, 10/14/1930, p. 1; and "Store gutted; arson suspected," Lexington Leader, 06/17/1977, p. A-1.