I’ve never tried to estimate how many photographs I’ve taken since Gardens to Gables came into existence (springing from my mind like Athena from the head of Zeus!). Digital photography has made photography more accessible and cheaper, but the ability to take so many photos sometimes causes me fits. The fits, though, are not as vexing as knowing there are stories I will never discover associated with the images I capture. But sometimes, one of these posts gets shared around, and I reap the benefit of folks knowing the places that prompted my curiosity.
Gage lies along the Wickliffe Road (Kentucky Route 286) in Ballard County, Kentucky, the northwesternmost county in the Commonwealth. Ballard County, part of the Jackson Purchase region of Kentucky, was the 93rd county established by the state legislature. The town of Wickliffe, located on the Mississippi River, is the county seat.
I imagine this small hamlet was christened for a resident with the surname Gage, but unfortunately, the book I consider a bible for certain kinds of research, Robert Rennick’s 1984 Kentucky Place Names, contains no entry for Gage. Ballard County’s better known hamlet, Monkeys Eyebrow, does rate an extensive write up.*
For a brief moment – 1898 to 1905 – Gage had its own post office. This short tenure was not all that uncommon; several communities in Ballard County boasted a post office for only a few years. There was a school – it shows up on the 1951 topographic map as a small black square with a flag, and a cluster of houses. Today, there’s a scattering of ranch houses, the Gage Grill and Grocery (which is not in a historic building), and the two buildings I shot while the car slowed down (my driver, as always, most obliging).
The small, one-story frame building, with exposed rafter tails and a small brick chimney flue perched on the ridgeline of the roof, has been shuttered for a long while. The door on the gable end once had a gable hood like the door on the other side, which maintains a weathered storm door. The window beside it is covered in metal.
At one time, someone lived here – maybe a young married couple just setting up house, or an older person, downsizing. It could have been a tenant house for the farmland stretching out behind the abandoned building.
The two-bay garage, built with rusticated concrete blocks (manufactured that way to resemble stone), is a sturdier looking building – both it and the dwelling constructed, I would venture, anywhere from around 1910 to 1930.
Now, both buildings are forlorn, without a purpose, facing not the state highway, but the Gage Road – open to interpretation and fancy, and the camera lens of the passing curious.
*Collecting interesting place names isn’t limited to the work of the late Mr. Rennick – in 2007, NPR conducted an interview with Mark Usler about his book of odd town names, and Monkey’s Eyebrow was at the top of the list.