Thursday, September 3, 2009

Buildings of Days Gone By

In recent months, I have been so proud of all the improvements going on in downtown Harrodsburg. Historic buildings are being refurbished and repainted and new businesses continue to thrive despite the struggling economy. Even older businesses are beginning to join in the remaking process.

Three of my favorite businesses on Main Street are Studio G, Beehive Gifts and Kentucky Fudge Company. The first two are longtime businesses and continue to attract new customers every day. The Fudge Company may be a new face in downtown, but it is fast becoming a favorite spot in Harrodsburg.

Studio G – owned and operated by Goldie Goldsmith-Vigneri – offers instructions and seminars for men and women fours years old and up. Pageant training, vocal and acting lessons, and confidence building are just a tiny portion of what is offered at Studio G. In addition to lessons, Studio G can also be rented for private birthday parties, meetings, dinners, weddings and casino nights.

Beehive Gifts – owned and operated by Jim and Shirley Sprague – is a wonderful gift shop and great place to find all types of collectibles. Boyds Bears, Willow Tree Angels, Precious Moments, Tim Wolfe Sculptures, and Cherished Teddies are all available for purchase. Beehive Gifts also offers several different lines of candles, including Yankee, Bridgewater, Candleberry, and Woodwick. If you are having trouble finding the perfect gift, Beehive Gifts will offer the ideal suggestions.

Kentucky Fudge Company – owned and operated by Tim and Jennifer Kazimer - is located in the historic Dedman’s Drugstore. In addition to the yummy homemade fudge, Kentucky Fudge Company also offers an assortment of ice cream treats from cones to milkshakes to sundaes. The cafĂ© offers a different soup of the day, as well as the Harrodsburger, chicken salad, olive nut loaf and several other sandwich options. Many groups have discovered the joys of meeting at the Fudge Company, including the Community of Mercer County Writers who meets every Tuesday evening at six o’clock.

As I reminisce about my favorite Harrodsburg locations, I am faced with the sobering reality that many historical places disappearing from our landscape, most notably the Mercer County Court House. I understand the need for more space in the Mercer judicial system, but watching the demolition of the court house has been very sad. I drive through downtown Harrodsburg every weekday on my way to work, so I have watched the demolition of this building with a heavy heart.

This also reminds me of the destruction of the Hat Factory several years ago. Until its demolition in 2003, the old St. Andrews convent – known as the Hat Factory – was the oldest residence in Harrodsburg. Although the ROC building owned by the Harrodsburg Baptist Church has been a huge success, I can’t help but wonder what our ancestors would think about our practice of tearing down a historic building to put up a gymnasium.

Most rural grocery stores have totally disappeared, only to be replaced by convenience stores with gas pumps. Two of my favorite stores, Purvis’ and Peavler’s, both ceased to operate while I was still a little girl. The building for Purvis’ Grocery was totally removed, replaced by the Mooreland Avenue entrance into Mr. Kwik. Peavler’s Grocery was located on Magnolia Street, and although the building is still standing, it is a sad reminder of our past. Other small stores I miss were located in Bohon, Duncan, and Antioch.

Driving through the country, I also notice many barns and outbuildings slowing falling into decay from lack of use. Tobacco barns and cattle barns with roofs falling in or lumber falling off, they are pictorial reminders of a life gone by. Occasionally you can still see old outhouses, smokehouse, springhouses and root cellars, but these are also disappearing with each day that goes by. Along with the shrinking of family farms go the buildings that made small farming possible. I recently heard someone call old barns, “the graying bones of our past;” poetic, but true.

Even the gas station where my father used to work is long gone. Once located at the intersection of Mackville and Perryville Roads, I have so many fond memories of visiting the gas station and being treated to a cold Coke from the old fashion machine. The old Mercer Roller Rink building is still standing, albeit vacant expect for one week during the year when the Grand Old Mercer County Fair and Horse Show comes to town. During this week, the old roller rink is turned into the pride of Mercer County with the many exhibitors of the Floral Hall.

The Harrodsburg City Pool is now nothing but memories – I actually cried when the pool and building was torn down. I spent so much of my childhood swimming in the pool and sunbathing on the decks overlooking the Salt River. Now the pool is only a memory and my children will never know the joys it could bring.

On some of my photography sessions throughout the Mercer countryside, I have discovered many old barns and buildings, and they are forever captured through pictures. One of my favorites is a small barn located at the intersection of Fallis Run and Bardstown Road near the Antioch Church. I think the reason I like this building is because of the large Coca-Cola sign hanging on the side of the barn. I have always admired these old tin signs hanging on buildings and they fetch a hefty price at flea markets and yard sales. Unfortunately, the last time I went to visit this old barn, someone had removed the Coca-Cola sign. I’d like to think the owners removed it to keep as a piece of nostalgia, but with the building being right next to the road, I have my doubts.

Take a drive in the country and admire the old barns and buildings before they are all gone. Think about the old courthouse as you watch the new construction on Main Street and visit the thriving businesses downtown. Our historic landscape is changing, so store up as many memories as possible to share with your children and grandchildren, because you never know when it will be gone.