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My son did a blog post on this old Southern mansion that sits right in the heart of Danville, Ky. and played a part in his childhood.   When he was about six weeks old I hired an elderly lady that had moved to Danville from Eastern Kentucky to babysit him.  Her husband had died with Black Lung disease and she was living in a senior housing area.  She had a daughter and son-in-law that lived near her.  The daughter, Helen, could not have children and immediately fell in love with Rob.  Helen would come to her mom’s everyday to play with Rob and take care of him.  Eventually, Helen became the babysitter and I was taking Rob to their place.  They moved in later years to an apartment in this old house. It was just a 3 room apartment but it was huge.  The rooms had such tall ceilings and were as big as 2 normal rooms today. This house was amazing in its heyday!  I am copying his post below about this mansion.

Today, Rob is a husband, father, photographer, artist, actor,  and works for the Kentucky Educational Television Station in Lexington, Kentucky.

You can visit his artwork here.   He also has an online journal here

Antebellum Trailer Park

In William Least Heat Moon’s classic travel book Blue Highways, the author writes at the beginning of Chapter 13 that the highway took him through Danville Ky. where he saw a pillared antebellum mansion with a trailer court on its front lawn. If there was ever a stronger visual metaphor for the glory of the Old South gone to seed I can’t think of what it would be… I read this book in the late nineties while living in Los Angeles and was stunned that the author was writing about a place where I had lived. My Godparents Helen and Jim Strevels rented a small one bedroom apartment in that old house on the hill that by the early seventies had been chopped up into four apartments, two upstairs and two down.

Growing up there I had no idea how strange such a place would seem to someone from another part of the country. It never really sunk in that I was playing and living in a place that once housed a single family that not only owned vast tracts of land, but also, owned human beings. My Godmother once took me down into the basement to see the hand hewn limestone rocks that made up the foundation. I’ll never forget how creepy it was down there. She wasn’t helping much by telling me stories about haints, for those of you not from the south, haint is a word synonymous with ghost. My Godmother claimed that the ghosts of slaves who had died on that plantation haunted that property, yes, she even claimed to have seen and heard them.

It’s so ironic to me now that such a place ultimately evolved into a trailer park. Most of the folks living there were either the working poor or they were on some kind of relief. Sometime around the early nineties the house became so run down that it was condemned and even the trailer park that surrounded it is now all but empty of its little rectangular homes. I went back there yesterday and took some photos of the place and walked around the great ruin that it’s become.

All the windows and doors were sealed and the window above had a vine that had grown between the storm window and the interior glass. Anyone interested in seeing this old place before its demolished can find it on 408 South 4th Street in Danville Ky.


8 Responses

  1. Oh that is just so sad… I hate to see any place like that –which used to be beautiful– go to ruins… Wonder why someone didn’t buy the place (sometime through the years) and fix it up…

    Glad I did get to see some pictures of it before they tear it down… Can anyone go inside now–or is it ‘that’ unsafe????

    At first, the last window looked like it was a stained glass window —BEFORE looking at it closer and seeing those vines. ha ha

    Thanks for sharing. I know you are proud of your son, Judy…

  2. What a fascinating post, Judy. You must be so proud, and rightly so, of your boy. Very interesting to read about the history of this place, and that photo with the vine growing between the window panes is truly amazing.

  3. It’s such a shame this house as to be pulled down, its

  4. What a pity that that grand old house is being torn down, Judy. Though it is terribly run down, it still looks very solid. So interesting to read of its history and how it figures in with your history. I enjoyed your son’s artwork and writing—he is very talented. I know you must be proud of him.

  5. Not to change the topic, Judy, but to change the topic. There appears to be a piece of apple cake on your site here. I clicked on the photo to get the recipe but did not find one. Is that a piece of apple cake?

  6. Love these old homes. Sad to see them fall apart.
    The same thought with the old barns.
    Thank you for this post.

  7. So, the place is in the heart of downtown Danville? I bet it’ll be a wonderful place for chain pharmacy or maybe a nice blacktopped parking lot.

    Those folks in the bluegrass region of Kentucky don’t realize they’re destroying the very sites that give the place character and ambiance. They’ll realize that once it’s all gone. Danville will end up being just another nondescript town. It’ll be indistinguishable from any other mid-western town (it’s losing it’s “southern-ness” anyhow — as is the rest of the bluegrass area). Sad, sad, sad . . .

  8. At one time, this place was owned by my great grandfather, Mitchel Taylor (1860-1933). Mitchel grew up in Middleburg, just south of Danville, and drove by the property every time he came to Danville. He would say that someday, if he got wealthy, he would buy it. By 1908, he did so, and owned it until the early 1920s. I understand it was purchased at a bankruptcy sale a couple of years ago by the First Southern Bank in Stanford.

    In his day, the property was once quite elegant, but it unfortunately was in a bad location: the neighborhood got zoned commercial, and the property is immediately adjacent to a big water tower.

    Today, the land alone and the trailers are worth more than the bank paid for them; unfortunately, the house is un-restorable. Someone ought to offer them $1 for it, on the condition they move it, brick by brick, and reconstruct it in a much more appropriate location.

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