Monday, July 23, 2007

Historic Preservation, not the common denominator in Bullitt County growth and Destination Tourism, (the Commonwealth's new mantra) will alter the landscape of the Alma Lesch neighborhood in the coming years.

Two large, and original, homes touching the property line of Alma's former residence are now zoned for commercial development. A third corner lot brick home and a small corner lot, which backlights the State Highway Marker for Alma Wallace Lesch, will span the entire city block along highway 44 in Bullitt County. Already a dangerous stretch of state road, with a deep ditch dropping off on north and south sides of the two lane blacktop which runs from Dixie Highway on the Ohio River, west, to Taylorsville, Spencer County east of Bullitt County... perhaps widened in the years from now after many years of fatal accidents inspire the highway department to make the thoroughfare SAFER).

Having seen what commercial zoning has done to (and for profit in nearby Mount Washington) one of three original sister cities just ten miles east of Shepherdsville, the rapid growth, the homebuilding and shopping opportunities in Mount Washington have eliminated the most beautiful of the town's architecture. Once the fall festival and parade marched along a tree lined street of original city buildings, mostly white clapboard two story homes and shops. Actually, the small town on the hill, named after George of the original American Revolution (not the current "W"one) has turned the overgrown town (which even destroyed the original Mill) into a clone of Jefferson County's Dixie Highway of Louisville-Metro, now mini-marts, oil changes, fill-'er-up islands of petroleum stops and gas stations of community competitors...car washs, car lots, grocery stores and the like...

Where IS the town of Mount Washington? Physically it's still on the map but is you saw the town in the mid 1970s and were dropped into it today you would be disoriented for a while until you realized the effect of bad city planning, zoning change and lack of foresight. Having lived and worked in the town in the last century, I recall a time when locals bragged of a new plan for anupscale shopping area, complete with gas lit lamps along a well planned shopping area near where the overdue and startegically located MacDonald's finally appeared (then seen on national TV for its horrific sexual-harrassment crime). Tourist likely drop by the drive-thru to order a strip search salad and drink on their way to Historic Bardstown. Now there's a town, Bardstown, which valued its architecture and history in the uncommonwealth of Kentucky.

Will Shepherdsville's city planners follow this pattern of bulldozing its remaining old homes? Three homes fell last year to bring a national drug store chain and another auto parts store to corner lots in an already tight center-of-town four way traffic light. Why the stores were not located along the highly visible from the interstate Adam Shepherd Bypass is a mystery to me. But on the positive side...

One can still see most of the original downtown, although thinned by two "hundred year floods within one decade...one of which, in 1997, honed the town and river-side housing down to new, clean green space after the government buyouts relocated people once living along the flood prone south end of town. The historic Salt River, named after the profitable salt-making operations of eighteenth-century industry, creating the county seat of Shepherdsville in the first place.

If indeed Historic Preservation, as noted by visiting First Lady Laura Bush in a speaking engagement, called Kentucky one of the few states on the forefront in numbers of grant projects for architectural preservation. I heard her say this. With examples as Shepherdsville and Mount Washington ignoring its historic culture is this a case of non-grant writing initiative by city developers seeking only financial gain over a culture of nineteenth-century architecture.

Rather than joining two original architectural landmarks from two large homes along Highway 44 into a commercial opportunity for more than instant aggrandizement, like a carwash in the neighborhood, what can REAL PLANNING and honoring local history (see Highway Marker)... to encourage destination tourism. Real tourism! Not shopping, for the sake of SHOPPING.

Then go shopping as our president requested in 2001.
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