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.
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.
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.
Five years after an entire city block was razed in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, its people have learned to turn lemons into lemonade.
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.
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.
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!
Looking through some older photographs, I came across this guy. I took it a few years ago in a park in Northern Kentucky overlooking the Covington and Cincinnati skylines. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the name of the park. Google maps and landmarks narrowed down my choices, but I was still at a loss. Finally, I sent the photo to a friend who grew up in the area. He recognized the view almost instantly.
And that is the power of place. All the elements built along the river over decades come together just so – it’s such a unique massing of buildings, structures, and landscape (historic and modern) that my friend not only recognized the skyline, but he knew the photo could only have been snapped from Devou Park, which is nestled high in the hills overlooking downtown Covington, the Ohio River, and Cincinnati.
What are some some of the elements that make your city or region instantly recognizable?