Last fall, while I was on R&R from the blogosphere, I attended a tour of the Lexington Cemetery with two of my colleagues from work. I arrived a little early for the tour, so I decided I would spend some time trying to find and take a few shots of a home that was once owned by Lexington's most popular antebellum black barber, Samuel A. Oldham.
The house, located on South Limestone (Mulberry in antebellum days), has recently been restored. It had fallen into terrible disrepair, was slated for demolition, and even was the location for some squatters who nearly burned the place down. But with some serious TLC it has been repaired and brought back to its former handsome appearance. The home is even for sale at present if one has the approximately $750,000 for purchase.
Oldham earned enough money as an enslaved barber to purchase his freedom in the late 1820s. He advertised widely in the Lexington's newspapers, catered to the town's most prominent citizens, and built up a long list of loyal clients. The barber was able to invest some of his earnings in the construction of this home in the 1830s. He also was frugal enough, business-minded enough, and or both to purchase the freedom of his wife, Daphne, and children. Two of Oldham's sons, Samuel C. and Nathaniel, likely saw the opportunities that barbering provided their father and later became barbers themselves.
Oldham only owned the home a few short years. He sold the place in 1839. Being the wise business man he was, he likely saw the opportunity for profit in a growing Lexington. Regardless of the reason for sale, fortunately, the grand old home still stands as a testament to the accomplishments that could be attained through hard work and entrepreneurship.