42 recognized as scenic roadway
LA GRANGE, Ky. As you drive along the rolling, two-laned U.S.
Hwy. 42 in Oldham County, you might think you've taken a wrong turn
and wound up in Lexington's horse country.
by Don Ward
La Grange Fire and Rescue
Station No. 3 sits along Hwy. 42 and
is fashioned in a horse barn-like
design to fit in with its
The view is just as majestic, with miles of board fence,
colorful barns, manicured fields and galloping horses.
A little farther down the road, you pass a historic church, a winding
creek and an old-fashioned general store.
In fact, you can't help but wonder how this idyllic, agrarian scenery
ever escaped the bulldozers, construction crews and real estate signs
that are quickly gobbling up much of Oldham County.
That day may come.
But for now, a small group of Oldham County citizens have succeeded
in at least recognizing this peaceful stretch of roadway for what it
is: the last vestiges of rural America.
And to some, a piece of Oldham County heritage worth saving.
During an April 10 ceremony held in the parking lot of the Shiloh Methodist
Church (circa 1870), about 100 people gathered to unveil the first of
18 signs identifying 14.7 miles of Hwy. 42 as a Kentucky Scenic Highway
Various politicians and dignitaries shared personal stories about the
roadway. During his remarks, Oldham County Judge-Executive John Black
admitted, "There's no guarantee that development to won't come
to 42, but we want to make sure we recognize what we have here. We're
going to be challenged with economic development, but I'm going to try
to keep this black-board fence and what this highway means to me."
Black and State Sen. Earnie Harris were joined by other politicians
and dignitaries. But it was a handful of dedicated citizens who made
it all possible. The all-volunteer committee included Sonja Lowery,
Ed and Rita Aders, Jan and DeeDee Horton, Nancy Burke and Glenn Watson.
After six months of hard work to prepare the proposal, and then having
it survive the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's intensive screening
process, a year later the committee members had reason to celebrate.
"There's a great deal of history along this road, and it may take
people a long time to sense the importance of this day. But I think
it will finally dawn on people when these corridors start filling up,"
said Sonja Lowery, who chaired the committee and has been credited by
many as the driving force behind the project.
Patricia Michael, director of the Oldham County Historical Society,
added, "This designation is important because it shows that historic
preservation is about more than just saving buildings; it's also about
preserving a way of life, and in this case, traditional rural America,
which is quickly disappearing."
The effort began nearly two years ago when Lowery learned about the
program from former Oldham County Judge Wendell Moore. She recruited
other concerned citizens and began the arduous task of collecting statistical
and other data about the highway and the properties it crosses.
by Don Ward
of the Kentucky
Scenic Byway signs
was unveiled during
the April 10 dedication
officials have ordered
18 signs for possible
use along the historic roadway. U.S Hwy.
42 joins 19 other
Following a strict set of guidelines provided by state
transportation officials, the committee eventually submitted its proposal
on March 2, 1998. It included such sections as a historic narrative
about the roadway, a map, color photos, a list of scenic components
along each mile, typographical data and information about geological
and natural formations. The proposal also required evidence of local
support from residents, groups and local government agencies.
"Everyone we approached was supportive of the project," Lowery
In all, the committee prepared 10 copies of its exhaustive report and
plans to make one available for public viewing, perhaps at the county's
The report then was sent to four separate state agencies for review.
As part of the process, a group of state officials toured the area.
After a further review by safety engineers, a recommendation was made
to the Transportation and Tourism Interagency Committee and, upon approval,
an official document is prepared, said Cindy Griffin, who directs the
"This is not a program that the Cabinet promotes," Griffin
said. "We don't go out and actively look for areas; it's done by
local citizens groups who come to us."
Griffin said each scenic roadway in Kentucky has its own distinct personality.
She recalled her drive along Hwy. 42 as "a very unique area, with
lots of history and a rich collection of 19th Century churches and historic
The highway passes by several farms, including The Hermitage, listed
on the National Register and associated (along with nearby plantations)
with the recruiting of slave labor for Black Maria, a slave wagon that
arrived from Louisville to load human cargo; the Henry Button House,
site of bitter struggle between 1824 and 1838 over where to establish
the county seat; the Liberty Baptist Church (circa 1871); Shiloh Methodist
Church (mentioned above); Goshen Presbyterian Church (1887); and Little
Vine Church, the county's oldest surviving black church, built just
after the Civil War.
In addition to historic sites, Hwy. 42 passes by L'ESpirit, Shadwell,
Longfield and Upson Downs thoroughbred horse farms, as well as the Skylight
Thoroughbred Training Center.
Nearly every person attending the dedication ceremony had some personal
connection to Hwy. 42. But the few who spent hours on this project will
perhaps drive a little slower now when they travel through northern
"It's such a personal thing," said Lowery, who recently moved
to Centerfield but plans to build on property she owns along Hwy. 42.
"People fall in love with that land. And this designation means
the state has recognized that it's unique and worth saving for its archeology,
history and scenic assets."
"We were just a group of people who felt something needed to be
done to help save this area because once it's gone, you can never get
it back," said DeeDee Horton, who lives on Bohanan Lane. "We
learned a lot of history of the area and it brought us closer together.
Bill Coyne, a retired lawyer from Crestwood, Ky., who emceed the ceremony,
said, "This doesn't guarantee anything (regarding future development),
but it recognizes our need to preserve our heritage.
"It doesn't buy you rules and regulations," he added, "but
it buys you respect."
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