When I began researching my thesis (ages ago), which focused on two antebellum farms and their landscape, I realized that my Kentucky was a state with many souls, and personalities. Her landscape, I discovered, was one of “enormous geographic contradictions.” These disparate elements, from east to west, and nestled in the bluegrass basin that cradled me and the hours I spent communing with sky, soil and feeling on the farm – could be divisive and hard to reconcile. I felt claustrophobic among the hollows of Perry County, and struggled to understand how a friend from Floyd County felt naked and exposed on the gentle slopes of Mercer County. Political divisions – even just the isolation felt by those hundreds of miles from Frankfort – are another topic entirely.
Our buildings, though, connect us – whether they be root cellars, barns, or stores. Long before I became a professional in this field of cultural resources and architectural history, I kept my face glued to the window in the car, as communities would appear in the bend of the road and then slip away as we continued driving. Marked by a post office, maybe a garage, and almost always a small store, these vestiges of late-19th and early 20th century rural Kentucky promised a stream of togetherness, of stories with a familiar cadence, and a common need to belong to a place. Their notations on USGS topographic maps may be all that remains of these communities now – the drama, dreams, and desires of their residents left to float unheard and unseen along the wide spot in the road.