Past and present meet in Frankfort, Kentucky

I haven’t been a fulltime resident of Frankfort since 1982, but it’s the city I’m talking about when I use the word “hometown”.

I’ve lived in Savannah since 1995. Before that, I was in Philadelphia for about six years. I was in northern Massachusetts for about a year and a half. I lived in St. Louis for about five years.

But when I was in school and teaching in those various places, I would always spend a few weeks a year in Frankfort, Kentucky, where I grew up.

I have experienced three incredibly different Frankforts. My family lived downtown on Logan Street when I was a toddler, but I don’t remember that at all.

My memories begin on the west side of town, when we lived in the Meadows, a then-new suburban neighborhood. We had a big yard, a big basement, several great trees — all on a quiet dead end street that had enough slope to be perfect for biking and other activities. Like so many suburban areas that are now a few decades old, Knollwood Street and those around it aren’t as impressive as they used to be. The housing boom fueled growth in other areas, with bigger — if not necessarily better built — homes with master suites and more bathrooms.

When I was entering 8th grade, we moved to rural Franklin County. My parents had bought about 13 acres of hilly, wooded, brambly land along the Kentucky River off the very steep River Valley Road. We built a modern log home, which is where I lived through high school and was where I visited for years.

Earlier this century, my parents moved into downtown Frankfort. They didn’t want to maintain so much land, and they certainly didn’t want to get snowed in for a few days every winter.

So now I’m getting reacquainted with downtown, one of the most historical and beautiful small cities that you’ll find anywhere.

For many months, my practical-minded parents were unable to find a house they wanted to buy because they wanted a ground floor bedroom. No steps. But the older homes downtown simply weren’t designed like that. And then they found one on Shelby Street — one with an elevator installed in the 1950s. It’s a lovely elevator too: one of those brass cage ones that floats down the wall right inside the entrance and disappears into the trunk room upstairs when not in use.

Given its beauty, its history, and its architecture, one would hope that Frankfort’s downtown would be a resilient one no matter what. And it is resilient, and will remain so, but those reasons themselves probably aren’t enough. As the capital of Kentucky — one of the smallest state capitals in the country — Frankfort will always benefit from state jobs and investment. Given that simple fact, I’m surprised that there haven’t been sharper, more coordinated efforts to bring residents and commerce back to downtown, but maybe I’m hoping for too much. In recent years, the Grand Theatre has reopened, a city museum has opened, new restaurants and bars have opened, private investors have taken some big preservation risks — and all that’s in the face of a terrible economy.

So here’s a walk through Frankfort. All of these photos were taken over Thanksgiving weekend 2011. All were taken with my small Nikon, not my DSLR. All were taken within about half a mile of parents’ house — just a short walk this way or that. I have added captions and comments.

There are several different ways you can look at these. Obviously, they’re posted below, and if you hover your mouse over them, the text will appear.

Or you can click the “View with CoolIris” link.

Or you can click on one of the photos (they’re actually just big thumbnails) and enter a slideshow. I’ve got big sizes here, so that probably won’t work on a laptop, but it’s probably the best way if you have a desktop.


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2 comments for “Past and present meet in Frankfort, Kentucky

  1. Mary Rose Thompson
    December 4, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    We greatly appreciate that your mother notified us of this fine photo tour of Frankfort, Ky. We have lived here for 23 years and when my husband’s job as City Manager ended in 2002, we decided to stay and make this our permanent home. In the early 70s, Ken was slated to rejoin Don Mendonsa, Savannah’s City Manager (having worked with him in DeKalb County for several years). A fire and police strike threw the city into confusion and the job didn’t materialize. However, having LOVED Savannah already, we were jumping ahead and had already picked a historic house on Pulaski Square to be our dwelling. Actually it was Gen. Pulaski’s house. Of all the “might have beens” in our lives, this one is remembered and talked about from time to time. We think you are privileged to live in Savannah. But we are very happy with our historic home in downtown Frankfort within sight of the new Capitol. It’s the pink one you photographed. Another connection we have to your family is that Ken worked with your mother on the King’s Daughters Board of Managers. Again, thank you.

    • bill dawers
      December 4, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      Well thank you so much for your newsy comment. Pulaski Square is one of the most beautiful in the city, I think. It has no major monuments, which puts all the focus on the trees.

      I love that house you have in Frankfort — beautiful.

      Thanks again.

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