A Brief History of Lafayette High School


Katelyn Conrad

Lexington, KY- Picture of the present-day, Lafayette High School’s main entrance.

Lafayette High School first opened on September 5th of 1939 and paved the way for progression in the education department of Fayette County, Kentucky.

In 1939, the first main building at Lafayette was constructed. It was built on former orphanage grounds, and some of the previous buildings used for the orphanage stayed, becoming a part of the school. This original main building had 32 classrooms and was designed to accommodate 1,000 students. In the late 1930s, the area surrounding Lafayette High School had more farm fields and tobacco barns and not much residential housing. The article, Lafayette: A Short History, discusses the street, Rosemont Garden, as “the only street to the south; beyond it, open farmland stretched away toward Nicholasville.” Due to the rural surroundings around Lafayette High School, many new students attending were from farming families, leading to The Future Farmers of America becoming a leading student organization.

Before 1955, Lexington and Fayette County Schools were segregated. That changed, though, when 16-year-old Helen Cary Caise, an African American sophomore at Douglass High School, registered for summer classes at Lafayette, making Lafayette High School the first public school in Lexington to racially integrate students.


Lafayette High School opened only four days after the start of World War II when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939. As a result of the war, Lafayette started a defense trade school, which was then expanded after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. There was a time at Lafayette when the cafeteria was operated on a 24-hour basis to meet the program’s needs. Intensive training was given in such fields as welding, sheet metal work, radio, and industrial electricity. While the end of World War II brought Lafayette into a more discrete era, throughout time, Lafayette would prove to be one of the most formidable high schools in Kentucky.


Between 1975-1977, Lafayette was renovated into the school campus that it is now for 4.5 million dollars. The renovation added 29 classrooms across the back side of the original building and was named after the veteran campus foreman John Coliver. The Beeler auditorium was also constructed and named after Thelma Beeler, recognizing her achievements over 29 years of teaching Speech and Drama. Along with the addition of the classrooms and auditorium, new amenities were added to make Lafayette a more modern-day school, including air conditioning and also a wheelchair-accessible ramp at the main entrance.


Since the opening of Lafayette High School, there have been many academic and athletic alumni, including former Kentucky Governors John Y. Brown, Jr, and Ernie Fletcher; professional athletes Tyson Gay, Dirk Minniefield, and Gay Brewer; and actors Harry Dean Stanton, Jim Varney, and Farah Fath.

Since opening in 1939, Lafayette has gone through large renovations, ran a trade school during the war, and was the first school in Fayette County to desegregate. We should all be proud to be a part of Lafayette’s storied history.