Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Disappearing Places



My friend Christa Robinson, who works for Congressman Yarmuth, has listed on her Facebook page that she is a resident of West Louisville, Kentucky. I happen to know that while she does live in west Louisville, she doesn't technically live in West Louisville, which is an entirely different place. I may or may not have rudely pointed this out to her - probably not because had I been rude to her, I am certain she would have responded in like manner, and that hasn't happened.

West Louisville, Kentucky is a place in Daviess County, a little burg along KY56 at its interesection with the Calhoun Road, numbered as KY815. I mentioned KY815 and West Louisville in a blog entry on August 27, 2010. Other than the Diamond Lakes Club and Whitaker's Gun Shop, there is very little in West Louisville other than a post office.

If you are old enough, you might remember when Shively was called Saint Helen's, named for the Catholic Church which itself has been recently renamed. But you'd have to be real old. One of the reasons Saint Helen's in Jefferson County became Shively was because of another town, Saint Helen's, in Lee County, a few miles east of Beattyville. That Saint Helen's, which I mentioned in a blog entry on Febraury 14, 2007, isn't as big as West Louisville. The only thing I remember on a drive through that area was a burnt out church, and, as usual, a post office. Alongside of the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River, you really couldn't even call it the proverbial "wide place in the road."


In another 2007 posting, this one on July 27, I copied the obituary of Mr. States Rights Aycock, II, dead at the age of 73, of Wickliffe, in far western Kentucky. One of Mr. Aycock's relatives hailed from the town of Columbus, Kentucky, which is in even-farther west Kentucky, a small town best known for its state park, the Columbus-Belmont State Park, which marks a Civil War battle best known as one of the places General Ulysses Grant first made a name for himself to people who mattered like President Abraham Lincoln. At that point in General Grant's career, several bureaucrats were on the ladder between him and the Commander-In-Chief. By the end of the war, Grant would like climb that ladder to the top rung. Columbus is located in northwestern Hickman County at the intersection of KY58, KY80, and KY123. It is spread out on several mostly unpopulated lanes including one called Hoover Parkway. As the map at left indicates, the town plan is quite extensive. The actual town that remains is very, very small. There is a the aforementioned state park, a fire house, and the post office.

In an entry on August 23, 2007, while writing about a Special Session of the Kentucky General Assembly, to be called by then-governor Ernie Fletcher, I included the lyrics of John Prine's famous song about the Paradise Coal Mine, Muhlenberg County, and the Green River. In one of those verses is mentioned the dam on the Green at the town of Rochester, which is in western Butler County. Of all these places I mentioned thus far, Rochester really is a town, with a few actual city blocks - maybe three. It is situated at the aforementioned dam on Green, at the mouth of Mud River along KY70, where Butler, Muhlenberg, and Ohio counties meet. KY70 to the west heads into Muhlenberg; the ferry across the Green follows KY369 into Ohio; and KY70 south (and east) leads past the town cemetery on the west side of the road up South Hill to Morgantown, the county seat. Aside from a few bait shops, the only other place of record is a post office.

In each of these places is a common denominator - the local post office. Over the years my travels have taken me past many post offices, large and small, decorative and plain, all of them having responsibility not only for delivery and pickup of the local mail, but also, importantly, for identity. Alas, all of these places above, and 127 others in Kentucky, and 3649 others across the Republic, are slated for possible closure.

Closing post offices can be divisive and traumatic. A few years ago there were rumors of the Valley Station Post Office in Jefferson County closing. It isn't on this list but three others in the area are - the Shelby Station, the Dr. Martin Luther King Branch, and the Air Mail facility at Standiford Field, the latter of which seems a little oxymoronic.

Victim to less mail and the internet, post offices are becoming questionable expenses in some people's minds. A few days ago, my dear friend Preston Bates and I had coffee at Sunergos on S. Preston Street, two blocks north of the Shelby Station Post Office. Preston offered that post offices should not have a monopoly on the delivery and pickup of mail - that postal service was one area of the government which should be parcelled out to private enterprise. While I disagreed with most of what Preston had to say, on this point he may have a point. More and more of our mail has been converted to email and social media outlets. More and more of our parcels are delivered by Fedex and UPS. Many years ago the Post Office got out of the banking business. Were it not for penal institutions and certain other places requiring postal money orders, these would have probably disappeared many years ago. Post office boxes can now be rented at storefront businesses - Louisville has at least two such locations, one of E. Broadway and the other on Bardstown Road.

Does the loss of a post office actually cause a place to disappear? The answer to that may be found by answering these questions -

Where in Kentucky is Athertonville?
Where in Jefferson County is Coral Ridge?
Where in Jefferson County is Kosmosdale?
Where in Bullitt County is Nichols?
Where in Hardin Couty is Stithton? The Stithton Post Office is shown in the picture at the end of this post, a photograph taken in 1900. The town of Stithton was located in northern Hardin County on land now consumed by the Fort Knox Military Reservation.

I could go on. Other than the last one, all of those places are still there, but unless you are paying close attention you may not know those names, as they are all places which used to have their own post office but no longer do. Kosmosdale was around long enough - meaning into the 1960s - to even have a zip code of its own at one time - 40149.

Do you have any memories of places where there once stood a post office but no more? Let me know.

Here is a link to the list of post offices across Kentucky scheduled for potential closure:

http://about.usps.com/news/electronic-press-kits/expandedaccess/states/kentucky.htm

1 comment:

  1. Kosmosdale is an area of Jefferson County roughly bound by the Ohio River to the west, Pond Creek to the east, Salt River to the South, and Watson Lane to the North. It borders my neighborhood of Valley Village. The post office in question was originally named Grassy Pond, renamed Riverview, and then renamed again for the town of Kosmosdale. Most remnants of the town are pretty much gone with the advent of the floodwall and the orginal Kosmos cement factory being rebuilt. I beleive the lake near the original entrance still exists, but I haven't ventured to find out for certain.

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Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Single, male, bald, overweight, early 50s, seeking . . . Oh wait, that's goes on the other website. How about this - never married, liberal Democrat, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.