Kentucky Historical Marker #2520 celebrates the history of black barber shops in Frankfort, focusing particularly on the contributions that Mr. Robert Lee Taylor made to the local community.
The barber shop that eventually became Mr. Taylor's started out in the "Craw" or "Crawfish Bottom" neighborhood of Frankfort, down the hill from Kentucky State University. The "Craw" was a predominantly African American neighborhood near the Kentucky River before it was razed in an urban renewal project during the 1950s and 1960s to make way for the Capital Plaza. When still in the "Craw," Fred Allen owned the barber shop, providing haircuts and comradery to his clients.
Later owner John Robert Davis Jr., first ran the shop in its old location, but then oversaw its move up the hill to the corner of Main St. and Langford Ave., across from Kentucky State University. Robert Lee Taylor subsequently purchased the business from Davis in the 1970s.
Barber shops, like Mr. Taylor's, have traditionally served as pillars of the community, providing a safe place for social, political and even religious discourse. Beyond simply giving haircuts, though Mr. Taylor was certainly well-versed in the art, he also filled the role of therapist or soundingboard for many who sat in his chair. As the only black barber shop in Frankfort for many years, Mr. Taylor's took on added significance as many students at Kentucky State University learned local history at the shop. Others undoubtedly found comfort for their homesickness in the community created at the shop.
This community was still obvious at the marker's dedication, four years after the shop closed permanently. Speakers included Scott Alvey, the Deputy Director of the Kentucky Historical Society, William May, the mayor of Frankfort, Houston Wells, the Franklin County Judge Executive, Ms. Sonia Sanders, Assistant Vice President for Public Engagement and Community Outreach at Kentucky State University, Derrick Graham, state representative for Franklin County, Ms. Sharene Mattison, Mr. Taylor's daughter, and Reverand Jermaine Wilson of St. John A.M.E. in Frankfort. Mr. Ed Powe, the marker's sponsor, gave a moving dedication address in which he emphasized the vital importance of recognizing the contributions of regular men and women like Mr. Taylor to our shared history and passing their stories on to the next generation. Rainy weather did not prevent folks from showing up for the dedication, which was well-attended, and the parting clouds provided a brief window for the marker's unveiling.
The marker reads:
MR. TAYLOR'S BARBER SHOP
Originally located in "Craw," the
business was first owned by Fred Allen
and then later by John Robert Davis Jr.,
who moved the barber shop to this
location. In the 1970s, Robert Lee Taylor
took over the business. At that time, it
was the only barber shop in Frankfort for
African Americans and was an important
part of the lives of many young men,
expecially KSU students. Over.
MR. TAYLOR'S BARBER SHOP
Photographs of customers and family
members covered the walls of the shop.
New KSU students learned the history of
Frankfort and the school. The shop was
a safe place for public dialogue, including
political and religious discussions. Clients
of all ages received a haircut and words
of advice and encouragement. It was a
place people came for news, conversation,
and companionship. Shop closed in 2014.
The marker was dedicated on February 24, 2018.