It’s true of any Rand-McNally map in the glove box of the family automobile. Purchased in crisp condition from Sinclair or Gulf, it would never fold back into the same shape once opened. Never.
As with the case of neighborhoods, they just don’t return to the same size or appearance when a long-standing establishment disappears.
The phantom locations loom large years later. Whether it’s the White Castle at Bards-town Road and Eastern Parkway or Stewart’s downtown, Louisvillians still reference missing landmarks in giving travel directions. (I still pick folks up at Standiford Field.)
The key phrase is “used-to-be.” If you’ve offered directions to a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian in the last two decades, chances are you’ve referenced “the old Sears Building” on Shelbyville Road. That particular Sears location – which clothed generations of school children and stocked thousands of manly garages – is the mother of all used-to-be lore.
Let’s face it; Big Lots just can’t pull it off.
It’s one thing to cope with a new sign or logo, an architectural rehab or annoying facade slapped on the front of an otherwise noble storefront. But the ultimate landscape changer is when an entire building tumbles from history and becomes clouds of mortar beneath the crunch of a backhoe.
Joni Mitchell was right. Just what was there before?
In Louisville, the reputation of the former establishment or landmark is what keeps it on our nostalgic compass. The most recent archaeological find was the Baker Boy Donuts sign discovered during the demolition of the old Dutch’s Tavern in St. Matthews.
On the outskirts of town is the historic Bauer property that used to be a Civil War era blacksmith shop, then became traditional dining establishment Bauer’s, and then Azalea. In southwest Louisville stands (albeit barely) the once-grand venue Colonial Gardens. Miles apart, the two are related in a property and preservation lock-down that has become a Jefferson County cliche since the ‘70s.
The ongoing suppression of the public voice could forever homogenize our community landscape with non-stop Walgreens and soul-less strip malls decorated in yellow parking lot paint.
I’m relieved we won’t have to say, “You know, where Whiskey Row used to be.”
As of late, politics and process have become too close for comfort.
Engaged in a power struggle with the Metro Council, Mayor Greg Fischer issued the first veto in the nine-year history of merged government as a move to prevent changes to the historical landmarks designation process. In an equally surprising move, Fischer’s veto was quickly overridden by the council.
In response to an email inquiry, Chris Poynter, director of communications for Mayor Fischer, distills the current status of the controversy:
“As of now, the council has the ultimate decision on landmarks (per the council overriding the mayor’s veto)“ he states. “The Mayor supports keeping the council – and therefore, politics – out of the process.”
It seems that a house divided is a structure that may be one of the few to outlast the test of time.
As for the journey, we’ll all get there together.