I have accumulated entirely too much research over the years that serves no purpose but to clutter space. Some of it still produces brick walls and dead ends over and over. But then I discover delicious tidbits of our far flung past, a drabble of something that stirred my senses when i came across it. Sometimes, you have to make do with the tidbits.
Two weekends ago, I wrote on a subject that’s important to tidbits I’ve tried to piece together about the neighborhoods that make up a central portion of our county seat’s integral history. As I pulled out existing research I have on the area encompassing Liberty Street campus, the triangle of Leslie Avenue, West Brown Street, and Cleveland Avenue, and even the neighborhoods around the City Cemetery and West Washington Street, it set my mind working overtime.
And i decided to take a walk…. Having recently covered a couple of articles to do with the Shaw brothers, some of my past research into the death of Robert surfaced an interview I did many years ago. The person I interviewed gave a statement that Robert had come to his end in the confines of Gorin Park. Follow-up research uncovered the coroner’s report that stated Robert Shaw was discovered in a cornfield near Gorin and not in the park itself. This brought me to the research I’ve accumulated of tales from several of the City parks. This prompted a special trip to Liberty Street Campus, to the Recreation Department offices, where I spent the afternoon submerged in photo album/scrapbooks that tell the short version of the history of how each City park came into existence.
My mother spent her some 10 years of education at Liberty Street campus, attending first through 10th grades here, and this brought my thoughts that day back to the research I’ve accumulated over many years about the neighborhoods that encircle the hill that at an even earlier date than the City Schools, also housed Liberty Female College, one of the precursors of today’s Western Kentucky University.
While visiting Liberty Street, I couldn’t resist looking through the doors into the gym, which somehow looks so small after all these years, and let my memories flow around me. Once out in the parking lot to leave, I also looked on the large area at the back, where used to be the High School football field.
In the late 1980s, early 90s, when WKU started a Glasgow Campus at Liberty Street, they paved over the old stomping ground, and converted it into a parking lot for students and faculty. About three years ago, I watched one of the late Stanley Post’s old home movies in the ticket office at the Plaza Theater. On the home movie was footage of Stanley’s nephews, Tony and Don Post, and some of their schoolmates, playing a scrimmage game right there on the old Liberty Street field!
All the memories flowing that afternoon reminded me of all that research, which I’d last had out when I wrote Murder Mansion and the Kilgore family tragedies. It also reminded me of the Civil War soldier stumbling across the peach brandy at the Huggins place, and thinking of him handing it out the back door to anyone who passed by!
The recent literary revisit of Hamilton’s execution in the once self-proclaimed “Gallows Hollow” made me start thinking again of all the things I’ve left unsaid. When walking came to mind, I thought of the walking trail at Liberty Street campus.
Arriving on campus, I started my walk on the Washington Street side of the campus. Anyone having been on the campus is aware that all the backyards on West Washington Street sit several feet above the old school campus. At the height of the 1950s, the children and young adults had a path worn up the incline from the back of the school to the back of the Howard Clinic. The clinic was started as an outpatient hospital by Dr. CC Howard,and later Dr. Daryl Harvey, Dr. William Bryant, and Drs. George and Carolyn (Howard) McKinley practiced medicine here. There was a cafeteria – the Clinic Grill – where lots of teenagers preferred to pass their lunch time.
As I turned in a circle to take in the school campus, the thought came to me of the space between backyards. Having grown up in the country, I’ve never given much thought to city yards. Aunts and uncles I’ve visited in my youth all lived on back streets, where no houses were behind theirs. One aunt and uncle moved into a new house off of Longhunter’s Trail when we were children, and there were few houses there at the time. But we used to sneak off down the street to play in the Church Cemetery, which at that time was a small jungle of trees and undergrowth. Through the undergrowth you could see across the backyard of the last house on Bluegrass Drive. And I just never thought of the space where backyards meet.
This thought came rushing to me as I stood at the base of the old rock wall where the ground slopes up from Liberty Street Campus to the backyard of the old Howard Clinic, renovated and now, for 20 years has been the home of the Barren Co. Health Department, that was once across Liberty Street from the school.
I thought about bygone days, before Glasgow High School put in the football field, when that field was home to the Gorin family burial ground. Franklin Gorin had been laid to rest there, with several family members already in residence, in 1877, after he penned “The Times of Long Ago,”and then quietly passed away at Hall Place, a popular boarding house. Today it is a bed and breakfast, located on South Green Street.
With the pressures of modern day progress, his daughter Annie, who was financially strapped, getting up in years, and having some emotional trauma from the continued harping of a nasty neighbor who called the graveyard an “eye sore,” finally buckled to the slight persistence of the school, and agreed to allow the removal of her loved ones’ remains to the City Cemetery down the street. I’m sure this caused her alot of grief and heartbreak, and she did not receive a financial windfall from the sale of the property. But she held her head up and continued doing what everyone in the community knew her best for, and that was teaching piano and music to the young people she loved so well. She died almost penniless in 1939.
Walking down the Washington Street retaining wall, the old rock turns to concrete with trees twisted through in a rebellious way. A chain link fence starts at the back of the campus, and I became fascinated with trying to sneak peeks through the links of the fence. If one is not indigenous or well planted in the South, you have no idea how all the vinery creeps up in the spring and summer to wrap itself through the chain links, and Mother Nature builds her own privacy fence. The honeysuckle, morning glory, ivy, and many other vines and briars wind their way together… it really is beautiful, but quite frustrating if you want an unobstructed view!
At the back of the campus, the land drops away to a drainage ditch that was put in by the Glasgow Housing Authority when they built Huntsman Manor Apartments on Jefferson Street. I was amazed at how far down the land does drop!
At the next turn of the path around the parking lot, you are at the backyards on Leslie Avenue, until about halfway down the west side. The fence then cuts away down an embankment away from the driveway that accesses the campus from Liberty Street. Where the fence drops away is a circular entrenchment built around a small sink area. A future feature will cover the purpose of this entrenchment.
A downhill walk through the grass took me to the fence, separating me from the now bare lot where the Huggins place once sat. The lot is quite deep from Cleveland Avenue back to the campus fence, shaded with large stately trees. At one time another private burial ground was in the backyard here.
Two other houses past this lot are actually on Brown Street, the last one at the intersection of West Brown and Liberty Streets. Alot of old history with these places as well, and I plan to cover this in yet another future feature. The stories from this area are rich in history and steeped in the lore of a bygone era. That lore became the stuff of Urban Legend less than 100 years after Hamilton’s execution. Where the blacktop ends, where the honeysuckle is sweet, where the backyards meet, there are many tales of oft forgotten ghosts and haunts. Til we meet again….
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