Category: Kentucky

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Fifty years ago this week, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Thousands of miles away, my ten year old father sat in a classroom in Kentucky. When the news came in, his teacher dissolved into tears. It was a moment he never forgot. He could still see the room at Bend Gate Elementary. Could still smell the chalk in the air…

Millions of people across the country also remember(ed) that moment – where they were when Kennedy was shot.

Recently, my mother gave me a huge tub filled with family photos and newspaper clippings saved by my father’s mother. Among the ephemera collected over a lifetime, I found that my grandmother saved more than a week’s worth of local newspapers relating to the Kennedy assassination. A life-long Republican, who wasn’t particularly political, nor particularly sentimental (she was constantly tossing out old things and you had to keep a real eye on her or else your favorite heirloom would end up at  Goodwill) – and yet she held onto newspapers that detailed the death, mourning, and assassination investigation of a man for whom she had never voted for the rest of her life.  For me, this discovery cements what historians have said for a long time. Kennedy’s death deeply impacted Americans and American culture.

Just remembering where you were the day of his assassination was and is a cultural trope.  Young, old, Republican, Democrat, it didn’t matter -you remembered where you were when Kennedy was shot.

 

 

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Did You Know?

The oldest continually operating commercial airfield in America is in Louisville, Kentucky. Bowman Field opened in 1921 and is still a popular port for private planes.  It also houses a fine-dining restaurant, Bistro Le Relais, where you can eat and watch the small planes come and go.

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Additions to the original 1929 building tripled its size in 1937. Image via 502louisville.com

Bonus Fact: Charles Lindbergh landed the Spirit of St. Louis here in 1927!

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Louisville, Kentucky’s Eastern Cemetery

Eastern Cemetery, one of Louisville’s oldest, was abandoned after a scandal erupted in the 1980s. Today, it is cared for by the Friends of Eastern Cemetery, a volunteer group dedicated to its restoration.

The cemetery is a 30 acre tract adjacent to Louisville’s famous Cave Hill Cemetery (the final resting place of Colonel Sanders).  Designed in the picturesque style, the cemetery is park-like — filled with trees and a rolling landscape.  Burials on the site began as early as 1843, and possibly as early as 1835.  It was the burial ground for Louisville’s high society, black and white.  Nearly all of Louisville’s 19th century black leaders were buried here. Additionally, numerous fraternal societies have lots and clusters of lots. The Odd Fellows, the Masons, the United Brothers and Sisters of Friendship are just a few organizations that occupy lots in Eastern.

Records at Eastern Cemetery indicate that the reuse of graves began as early as 1858. It is estimated that 48,000 people are buried in just 16,000 graves. Comparison of maps for Eastern Cemetery (circa 1880, 1907, 1962 and 1984)  indicates entire sections were renamed and reburied. In some cases, sections were renamed as many as three and four times (i.e., Old Slave Ground, became Cheap Willow, then became Public Section 2, then became Cave Hill Corner, and finally became Sections 11 & 14).  When this information, as well as information regarding the mishandling of cremains (crematory ashes) came to light in the 1980s, the cemetery was abandoned.  For two decades the property was neglected – it became a site for illegal dumping, parties, and vandalism.  To this date, no one has been prosecuted for mishandling the cemetery’s burials or its neglect.

Currently, the Attorney General’s office is the manager of the trust for maintenance. The interest on the trust generates only nine thousand a year to maintain this cemetery and two others. The FOEC’s ultimate goal is to create a self-sustainable model for the continued upkeep of the historic property.

Turning Failure into Opportunity, Lexingtonians Embrace Centrepointe

Five years after an entire city block was razed in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, its people have learned to turn lemons into lemonade.

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Only in Lexington, Kentucky, the “horse capital of the world”- A twilight polo match in the center of historic downtown.

Google the failed development known as Centrepointe and reams of newspaper articles and blog posts will flood your results screen.  It reads like a soap opera- the (some might say greedy) developer, the hometown opposition, and the plot twist: death and financial ruin.

It started out as plan for urban renewal right out of a 1960s handbook.  Developer, Dudley Webb wanted to demolish an entire city block in the center of the city’s historic center, in order to build a new mixed-use property with a hotel, restaurants, offices and condos. In the past, Webb spearheaded successful downtown development  and even won awards and accolades from preservationists for his Victorian Square project.  In light of this, preservationists and concerned citizens hoped to dissuade Webb from demolition. Instead,  a tooth and nail battle over the fate of the block ensued.

Though the block contained some of downtown’s oldest buildings and more than a few beloved local business, and despite the fierce opposition faced by Webb, the block came down – only for the city to find that his mysterious main financial backer died suddenly. Without leaving a will.

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Stomping the divots (just like in Pretty Woman!) at Centrepointe field.

The whole deal went belly up, leaving Lexington with a large grassy field at its center.  Despite dozens of new designs for the development and promises by Webb that construction is eminent, the lot remains nothing but grass behind a wooden fence.

In the meantime, Webb has granted various groups in the city permission to utilize the Centrepointe field for events – a genius PR move.  Festivals that once lined the streets have found a new home at Centrepointe including festivities surrounding St. Patrick’s Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Some rather unusual events have also taken place at Centrepointe, including the Alltech National Horse Show, and most recently an exhibition polo match.

Marketed as a once in a lifetime event, the twilight match was rumored to have been conceived of and executed in just 7 days!  It was so fun and unique that it’s almost a shame that something will eventually be constructed on the lot. This author votes that downtown Twilight Polo should become a new Lexington tradition! Viva the grassy field!

Preservation Is…

As for really new ideas of any kind—no matter how ultimately profitable or otherwise successful some of them might prove to be—there is no leeway for such chancy trial, error, and experimentation in the high-overhead economy of new construction… Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.

-Jane Jacobs, author, urbanist, historic preservationist

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Storage for BrokeSpoke Community Bike Shop at The Breadbox in Lexington, KY. The Breadbox, located in the former Rainbo Bread factory, also houses West Sixth Brewery Company, Cricket Press, Food Chain, the Roller Girls of Central Kentucky, Magic Beans Coffee Roasters, artists studios and more. Lots of new ideas in one old building.

from The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Chapter 10: “The Need for Aged Buildings”