Gardens to Gables

Lola (not the Ray Davies version)

Lola, Livingston County, Kentucky

One of the significant historic aspects of Kentucky is its numerous crossroad communities and hamlets, located scant miles apart along a county’s road or waterway networks. This collection of buildings, surrounded by farmland, may indeed be located at the juncture of two roads, but could also be located near a ford in a river, or along the railroad, or near the site of an industry. Smaller than the county seat, without the anchoring presence of a courthouse or other municipal buildings, these hamlets usually contain a post office, store, a garage, churches, and a school, flanked by dwellings. There is typically no neatly laid grid of streets; some larger crossroad communities have a series of small residential streets radiating off of the main road, but smaller examples consist of dwellings and commercial structures fronting on one road. And these were vital places in the local economy – the post office and the store were  hubs of business, socializing, and finance.

Why so many little communities scattered hither and yon across our 120 counties? Topography and transportation access – or lack thereof – were two key forces in the creation and fostering of crossroad villages. I didn’t really begin to take notice of all of these communities until a few years ago, when I was fortunate enough to work with the Rural Heritage Development Initiative – which sadly is no longer functioning due to a lack of funding. I realized that despite growing up on a farm, my knowledge of this quilt of farms and villages laced across the Commonwealth was perilously scant – and worse, many of these places are nothing more than a name on a map now. I’ve paid particular attention to these places since then, trying to capture some sense of their history and the buildings that still remain, whenever I am in the field. Kentucky’s counties are not equal when it comes to crossroad communities – the Inner Bluegrass, with its improved roads and strong economy since the mid-20th century, has fewer communities left. Eastern Kentucky’s communities began to be displaced by mining towns in the late-19th century, and continued mining and timber extraction have exacted a toll even on 20th century company towns. During a survey of Crittenden and Livingston Counties, located in far western Kentucky, I was delighted by the sheer number of crossroad communities, and  – like most – enchanted by their names. Lola, then, is no exception.

 

Figure 25

Section from the 1921 15-minute Golconda quadrangle map showing Lola

 

Lola, located about 20 miles northeast of Smithland, is a true crossroads community. Located at the intersection of Lola Road (State Route 133) and Ditney Road (State Highway 838), the town developed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Like Burna and Tiline, it was named for the daughter of a resident – in this case, Lola, the daughter of the first postmaster Robert P. Mitchell. The post office (LV-105) was established on August 23, 1881 and ceased service in the 1970s or 1980s. [1]

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The Lola Post Office

Lola appears to have been most active in the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth. Proximity to the fluorspar mines, including the Bonanza and Jameson mines, spurred the town’s growth, such that in 1891, it was described as a “thriving, wide awake, hustling place.”[2] In the 1890s, a distillery and stockyard operated in Lola. Mrs. C.E. Kennedy advertised in the spring of 1891 that she was selling not only her residence in Marion, and all household furnishings, but also the half interest she owned in the Lola distillery. [3]

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The Tommy May Store in Lola

In 1910, W.H. Story ran a blacksmith shop (one of many), W.M. Davis and son operated a blacksmith and undertakers business and W.F. Paris Jr. ran the Lola Roller Mills. A reporter for the Crittenden Press had this to say about general merchants D.H. Styer and Company: “they carry a large stock of nice goods for a country town and are receiving their share of trade.” [4]

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Gulf Gas Station and Garage in Lola

Lola’s commercial district was supplemented by a school, churches and social organizations, including a Woodman of the World Lodge with 50 members. The Farmers Union Hall also had a large membership. The Lola Feed Mill (LV-53), a twentieth century operation (now closed) is located northwest of the commercial core of town.

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Lola Feed Mill

 

[1] Robert M. Rennick. Kentucky Place Names. (Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1984), 177.

[2] Crittenden Press, 1891.

[3] Crittenden Press,1891.

[4] Crittenden Press, June 30, 1910 edition.

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3 Thoughts on “Lola (not the Ray Davies version)

  1. One of my great grandfathers was born in Mayfield, Kentucky, so I am always interested in reading about Kentucky.

  2. Janie, I grew up about three miles from this little hamlet in western Kentucky on Slocum Road. I would like to offer you some corrections to your post, as several buildings have been misidentified. I love reading about Kentucky’s lost architectural heritage and your blog. Please feel free to email me.

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