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.
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.