Category Archives: Kentucky Life

Paducah’s Art Deco Coke Plant

By Leslie Potter | 11/10/19 5:06 PM

The former Coca Cola bottling plant located just west of downtown Paducah, Kentucky, is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit, past and present.

The building traces its origins to a 1937, when the Ohio River flooded, submerging much of downtown Paducah. Luther S. Carson was a businessman who owned a bottling plant downtown, which was lost in the disaster. The story goes that Carson was rescued from the building and brought to the nearest dry land, and he vowed to rebuild on that very spot.

In 1939, that building was completed, and the art deco style of the era is still evident in its design and details. The rotunda features a terrazzo tile floor and a sweeping staircase that is believed to be one of the best examples of the art deco style cast-in-place staircases remaining today.

The iconic building remained in operation as a bottling plant and then a distribution center until 2005. It sat vacant for years. The roof was deteriorating, and the Coke building seemed bound for destruction.

“The building sat empty until we purchased it in 2013, and it was the summer of 2013 when it was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places,” says building co-owner Meagan Musselman. “We were proud to do that, and we just kind of went to work on getting the new roof. We restored all of the original windows. We were getting the building secure and dry.”

Meagan Musselman says the vision for the building came from her husband and building co-owner, Ed Musselman.

“He wanted the building to be a snippet of what Paducah had to offer,” she says. “He wanted businesses in the building that either weren’t in Paducah currently, or that showcased some of the best of what Paducah had to offer.”

“Today it’s very much a cultural hub,” says Laura Oswald, director of marketing for the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There is so much activity in this building, from the restaurants, the coffee shop, the brewery, on to the yoga studio and the music studio, the makerspace. There’s so much activity and so many reasons for the community to come inside and really to be a part of Paducah’s creative culture, which is really illustrated here.”

The 80-year-old structure, long a landmark in western Kentucky, is now changing the town in positive ways for residents.

“We have crosswalks now,” says Musselman. “It’s a very walkable community that we’re in. People just didn’t really have much of a reason to walk in this area before all of the businesses came into the building. That’s very rewarding, and it kind of helps keep our momentum up.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2506, which originally aired on November 9, 2019. Watch the full episode.

Equine Artist Jaime Corum

By Leslie Potter | 11/10/19 4:57 PM

Kentuckian Jaime Corum combines her love of horses and passion for painting in her career as an equine artist. Her talent has taken her to the stalls of equine royalty and made her well known in the thoroughbred industry.

“Since I was a little girl, I started drawing horses, kind of obsessively,” says Corum. “I wasn’t able to have a horse at the time, and so it was just my way of being close to the animal that I loved so much.”

Later in life, Corum was able to ride and own a horse of her own. She cites her first horse, Sandy, as her chief muse.

“He was just kind of a dream horse,” she says. “A big, bay, powerful horse. You felt like you could take anything on when you were on Sandy.”

Being a horsewoman helps her capture the spirit of a horse in her artwork.

“The horse shapes and the horse structures and their features and their different expressions became part of my language,” Corum says. “It was part of my visual language.”

Corum’s family lives in Bell County, and she feels at home in the wilderness and mountains there. But Central Kentucky horse country is the place to be for an equine artist.

“The horse epicenter of Kentucky and the world is Louisville and the Lexington area,” she says. “Those are the places that are dearest to my personal horse cultural heart.”

Corum found a place in the horse racing world when she met Leonard Lusky, president of Secretariat.com.

“I went to an art show in Louisville and saw this spectacular equine artwork,” says Lusky. “I met Jaime, the artist, and I explained to her what I did, which was representing Penny Chenery, Secretariat’s owner.

“Ms. Chenery is very selective in terms of artwork, and when I first showed her Jaime Coram’s work, she was blown away,” says Lusky. “She said, ‘This woman gets it. She really understands horses and conformation.’ Immediately when I showed her some of the Secretariat work, she said, ‘Oh yeah. This is perfect.’”

Through her work for Ms. Chenery, Corum was connected to racing royalty of the modern era, and was asked to do a portrait of Zenyatta for a celebration at Churchill Downs.

“They wanted a life-sized portrait of her,” says Corum. “That alone has gotten me probably more recognition as an equine artist than any other painting I’ve done. I got to go and meet her and measure her. She kind of has that regal presence, too. She seems to know that she is special, and just feeling that from her was another inspiration.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2506, which originally aired on November 9, 2019. Watch the full episode.

Camp Nelson Honor Guard

By Leslie Potter | 11/10/19 4:50 PM

In this episode’s Kentucky Life memory, host Dave Shuffet explored Camp Nelson’s current place in history as home of the Camp Nelson Honor Guard. It’s one of only three honor guards in the nation that perform full and enhanced military honors.

“My family is from this area,” says Tracy Lucas, Commander of the Camp Nelson Honor Guard. “I had two grandfathers who served in the Civil War – one from the north and one from the south – and they both came through this area.”

Lucas retired from active military service after an injury, but says he wasn’t ready to quit.

“We started doing our first funerals here in 2008, and it’s just been a calling and a passion,” he says. “People helped me support it and since then it’s grown from nothing to this.”

Camp Nelson’s honor guard conducts around 300 funerals every year, and members tend to the cemetery throughout the year, laying wreaths and guiding visitors who come to pay their respects.

“If you see this ceremony for the first time, it’s a somber ceremony,” says Lucas. “People that I’ve done funerals for in the past, they say they’ll never forget it. I think it’s an important thing that we do to honor the men and women who gave us the rights and privileges to do what we do.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2506, which originally aired on November 9, 2019. Watch the full episode.

Civil War Photography at Camp Nelson

By Leslie Potter | 11/10/19 4:26 PM

Camp Nelson National Monument in Nicholasville, Kentucky, is an important archaeological site, and new artifacts are still being discovered at the former Civil War camp.

“Camp Nelson was a U.S. Army supply depot, recruitment camp, and hospital during the Civil War,” says Dr. Stephen McBride, historical archaeologist at Camp Nelson. “We were one of the largest recruitment and training centers for African American soldiers, and then we were also a large refugee home for their wives and children.”

The site held approximately 300 buildings during its peak from 1863 to 1866.

“It had a higher population than Louisville and Lexington combined for that same period,” says Peggy McClintock-Pauli, tour administrator at Camp Nelson. “In the end, you had over 3,000 family members living here that were emancipated. You have between 8,000 and 10,000 soldiers going through here at various times. So that’s why it had a high population.”

The history of Camp Nelson in the Civil War era can be pieced together through artifacts and documents from the time. But one of the most interesting discoveries for archaeologists at the camp was a cache of photographs from the 1860s.

Mark Osterman is a process historian at the George Eastman Museum. He explains that photographers of the time played an important role for soldiers.

“They would set up a special tent that had a little section in the back where they could process their plates,” he says. “The soldiers would spend their money on these things. They would buy an image. They would send it through the mail. They were even called lettergraphs sometimes because they didn’t break…they would survive the trip.”

Soldiers could get a small, calling-card-sized tintype of their portrait to send home. More expensive ambrotypes could be produced and presented with a mat in a fancier case.

“Having your photograph taken was a pretty important thing,” says Osterman. “It was an event to have your picture taken, and for many in the Civil War, probably the only picture that had ever been taken of them was a tintype that they sent home.”

“With soldiers, I think [photography] was particularly in demand,” says Dr. McBride. “They wanted to get a picture of themselves to send back to their loved ones to show them this new status that they had. But also in case they didn’t come back.”

By looking at personalized stencils found with the photographic equipment, archaeologists determined that the photographer at Camp Nelson was a man named Cassius Jones Young. Young lived and worked as a photographer in Lexington after the war and later near Cincinnati.

“That whole [archaeological] area and a lot of that information was found by mistake,” says McClintock-Pauli. “They didn’t know it was there. There are so many things like that that are so important; you really have to do your scratching here and there. To go back and find those tintypes and to find those pieces of a person’s life, that’s recorded now. That person’s place is saved.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2506, which originally aired on November 9, 2019. Watch the full episode.

The Beaumont Inn

By Leslie Potter | 11/03/19 4:54 PM

For 100 years, The Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg has been a family-run home for Kentucky hospitality.

Visitors have been coming to the Inn since it was established in 1919, but the structure itself has an even longer history. In the mid- to late-1800s, it was home to Daughters College, a higher education institution for women.

“John Augustus Williams was an incredible educator and kind of ahead of his time,” says Helen Dedman, innkeeper at the Beaumont. “He realized that women needed to be educated…[Daughters College] wasn’t just a finishing school. It was a full-fledged college. People from all over the south would come.”

The college remained in operation until 1914. After its closure, Annie Bell Goddard purchased the building and began its new, long chapter as an inn.

“She didn’t want anything to happen to this big old building where she had gone to school,” says Helen. “I think she just couldn’t bear for it to be sold, so she bought it. She was the first generation [of innkeepers]. Now we’re on the fifth.”

The Beaumont is known for its food offerings, which have evolved over a century of operations. In the beginning, the inn had only two dinner options: country ham and fried chicken.

Today, the Beaumont Inn has gained notoriety beyond Kentucky after being recognized by the James Beard Society’s America’s Classic Award in 2015. Innkeeper Chuck Dedman sees the honor as recognition for the Beaumont’s many years in the business.

“What was so nice about that, had so much significance for us is that it was not just an award for us contemporary innkeepers,” says Chuck. “It’s a classic award that goes all the way back to Annie Bell and my grandmother and my parents.”

The Beaumont Inn’s hundred-year history is a testament to the quality of service and the continuing demand for an old-fashioned inn, even in the age of interstate travel and countless modern lodging options.

“It’s a step back in time, a little bit,” says Helen. “There’s a lot of hustle and bustle out there, and we try to give the folks that visit here a feeling of a need to relax. Sit out there on the swing. Sit out on the front porch. Just relax, and we’ll take care of you.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2705, which originally aired on November 2, 2019. Watch the full episode.

Flight 5191 and September 11 Memorials

By Leslie Potter | 11/03/19 4:53 PM

Kentucky is home to two artistic memorials to tragedies from the early 2000s. A memorial to the September 11 attacks is located at St. Elizabeth Hospice in Northern Kentucky, and a sculpture honoring the lives lost in the 2006 Flight 5191 crash is on display at the UK Arboretum in Lexington. In this Kentucky Life memory, past host Dave Shuffett gets the story behind both works of art.

St. Elizabeth’s September 11 memorial is made using a steel I-beam salvaged from the rubble of the World Trade Center. The story of how the memorial was created begins with Catherine Smith, a volunteer at the hospice.

“I first read about the opportunity to obtain a piece of steel in September of 2009 in the Sunday New York Times,” Smith remembers. “It was a beautifully written article that [said] the port authority was giving a couple thousand pieces away, and if you were a qualified nonprofit or government agency, you could submit a request for a piece. It immediately struck me that this would be perfect not only as a symbol for hospice awareness but really for the entire Northern Kentucky region.”

Smith served on the board of the University of Kentucky College of Design, and she reached out to them to assist in creating an appropriate monument incorporating the steel. They designed a simple but elegant base made out of concrete in honor of the building’s construction.

“I was pleased with the end result,” says Rives Rash of the UK College of Design. “There were some imperfections. However, due to all the rust and the corrosion that’s already exhibited on the I-beam, it really matched gracefully.”

In August of 2006, Comair Flight 5191 crashed at Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport, killing 49 people on board. The Atlanta-bound flight held many Lexington area residents, and the effects of the disaster rippled across the community.

Douwe Blumberg is a sculptor based in Pendleton County. He was tasked with creating a memorial for the people who died in the crash.

“The concept [of the sculpture] is based on 49 souls that were lost that day, represented by 49 highly stylized birds,” says Blumberg. “They’re flying up from the ground, and they’re all touching each other, which is symbolic. They’re all together, but they’re individuals at the same time. I think that’s something that very often gets lost…The reality is that these were people with futures. These were people who had just gotten married or a couple going to build homes for people…We forget that in the scope of large disasters. I think sometimes the individual gets lost.”

The sculpture was unveiled at the Arboretum, where it remains today.

“I think, in this case, [the memorial] serves other purposes for the families,” says Blumberg. “To give them a place that they can individually come and pray, reflect, meditate, and just be. That, I think in a beautiful and appropriate way, honors the memories of the people that were important to them.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2705, which originally aired on November 2, 2019. Watch the full episode.

Jecorey Arthur

By Leslie Potter | 11/03/19 4:40 PM

West Louisville native Jecorey Arthur uses his extensive knowledge of music to educate kids, entertain people of all ages, and give back to his community. He performs and records his own music under the name 1200, teaches at Simmons College, and brings music education to Louisville public schools.

As a student himself, Arthur found music to be an incentive to be engaged in school, where he played in the band and was a drum major. He went on to study music at the University of Louisville.

As an artist, his music is genre-defying and experimental.

“I tried my best to take this classical world that I existed in at the music school at U of L and merge it with this hip hop world,” says Arthur. “At that point, I took my artistry to the next level. I thought, okay, not only am I going to fuse these genres and continue making this music, I’m going to step on all the toes of the dead composers that we’ve got to study because I’m going to show you that I belong in this space.”

Arthur adds that combining classical and hip hop makes sense on a purely musical level.

“We all have the same 12 notes,” he says. “We essentially have the same 12 pitches. We essentially have the same set of rhythms and there are only so many combinations you can have. In classical music, it was really the first genre that utilized ‘sampling’ before hip hop coined the term. You listen to Tchaikovsky’s music and he’s taking Russian folk tunes and incorporating them into his symphonies…Music is music. It doesn’t matter what the genre. It all kind of flows into one another.”

Arthur shares his passion for music with public school students in his hometown.

“As a teacher, I have tried to focus most of my work on the students of the schools that exist in West Louisville because they have the least amount of resources,” says Arthur. “And oddly enough, they have the least amount of teachers of color. When I say I’m a teacher, [the kids] perk up a little bit. They don’t expect it.”

Arthur explains that music brings elements of all fields of study. For example, beats and rhythms use math concepts, and history provides context to how and why certain types of music came about.

“Music combines every core subject, but unfortunately over 3.8 million kids in the United States don’t have access to it,” he says. “You can learn so much by simply singing songs with [students] or playing instruments with them. Everything from collaboration to creativity to confidence, critical thinking, and cognition skills. The possibilities are endless when it comes to music education.”

On top of his many musical endeavors, Arthur is engaged in on-the-ground social justice work in West Louisville, including the Parkland neighborhood where he grew up.

“Little Africa was once the black-only section of Parkland,” he says. “In 1968, when Dr. King was assassinated, all hell broke loose in what is now deemed as the May 27th Parkland disturbance. In the midst of the chaos, two teens were killed. Little Africa since then has, as a name, kind of faded into the abyss.

“It was important that the place that raised me, the place that kept me safe, that got me to where I am today, was provided its justice,” Arthur continues. “So we’re bringing money into the neighborhood. We’re bringing art and opportunities into the neighborhood. We’re bringing the definition of what community is into the neighborhood with Little Africa, this arts and culture plaza.

“My mission is to create cultural, social, and economic liberation for disadvantaged, disenfranchised, and displaced people,” says Arthur. “I want to make sure they are impacted so that they have equity and inclusion for what the American dream really is.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2705, which originally aired on November 2, 2019. Watch the full episode.

The Kelly Little Green Men

By Leslie Potter | 10/27/19 3:50 PM

Have aliens visited Kentucky? Some residents of the town of Kelly believe so.

“It is a fantastical story that has lasted all these years,” says Geraldine Stith, speaking about the tale of the alien invasion during August, 1955. “I heard it from the main source, and that was my father, Elmer Sutton.”

Elmer, along with his friend Billy Ray and their wives, had come to visit family members in Kelly. The group was socializing at a house and Billy Ray went out in the backyard to draw water from the well. While outside, he saw a flying saucer move across the sky, leaving a rainbow colored trail behind it before landing in the woods behind the house.

Billy Ray told his friends what he saw, and Elmer went back outside with him to investigate. According to their story, they were approached by a three-foot tall, silvery being, hovering above the ground. The two men ran inside, where their family members initially refused to believe them. But then, Elmer’s mother Glennie saw the creature at the back door of the house.

“They started shooting and they had a battle until about 11:30 that night,” says Stith. “They finally got a clearing where they could run to Hopkinsville and get help. They had no phone, so that was the only thing they knew to do.”

Police officers came to the scene in Kelly, but there was no sign of the aliens. The story goes that after everyone else left, the creatures reappeared and terrorized the family until dawn broke. And when the aliens finally disappeared for good, the home in Kelly was invaded again, this time by reporters and fascinated locals.

“They were coming from everywhere,” says Stith. “Magazines were coming out. The night that it happened, [the newspaper] Kentucky New Era sent a reporter out with cameras and everything. People were camping out in their yard, waiting for [the aliens] to come back. People were walking through the house, taking things as souvenirs, and it got really bad.”

Despite the description of silvery creatures, the alien invasion is now referred to as the incident of the “Kelly green men.” It’s become a lasting part of Christian County’s history, and the community celebrates “Kelly Little Green Men Days” every year in August.

“My grandmother was a church-going woman that read her Bible, that prayed, that made sure the kids went to church,” says Stith. “And her credibility alone with all this was enough to make people believe.

“Something happened that night,” adds Stith. “There are possibly things out there. We don’t know. We can’t explain.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2504, which originally aired on October 26, 2019. Watch the full episode.

Famous Graves in Kentucky

By Leslie Potter | 10/27/19 3:43 PM

Across the commonwealth, famous Kentuckians of the past have been memorialized with notable gravesites. Kentucky Life took a closer look at four of those unique memorials.

Daniel Boone

One of Kentucky’s most iconic former residents is Daniel Boone, who led a group of settlers into the frontier through the Cumberland Gap in the 18th century. There is a monument to Boone and his wife, Rebecca, in Frankfort overlooking the state capital and the Kentucky River. But there are some doubts as to whether or not the Boones are truly resting at that site.

Daniel Boone spent the end of his life in what is now Missouri and was buried there after his death in 1820. The Boones’ remains were said to be exhumed and reinterred at the memorial in Frankfort in 1845.

“I fully appreciate a good mystery and a good controversy, and this is certainly one of American history’s biggest controversies,” says Marc Houseman of the Washington Historical Society. “Where is Daniel Boone? Is he here, or is he there? And I think the short answer to both of those questions is yes. He is here and he is there. And I don’t think there’s any other way you can slice it.”

The Wooldridge Monuments

“The Wooldridge Monuments, they’re called ‘the strange procession that never moves,’” says author Bobbie Ann Mason, who grew up near the monument for Col. Henry Wooldridge in Mayfield, Kentucky. “It’s a group of sculptures in the graveyard. The procession includes [Col. Wooldridge’s] mother, his father. He had three sisters, three brothers. I think some nieces. There are two dogs, a horse, a deer, and then two versions of Col. Wooldridge himself.

“They’re all looking east, like they’re waiting for the Walmart to open,” adds Mason.

The eclectic, unmoving procession has been named to the United States National Register of Historic Places, although Wooldridge himself is a bit of an elusive character.

“He was the local kooky aristocrat and called himself Colonel,” says Mason. “I gather he became obsessed with being noticed and making his mark. He just wanted to be there forever; wanted people to remember.”

Col. Sanders

“One of the most frequently visited gravesites within Cave Hill Cemetery is Col. Harlan Sanders,” says Michael Higgs of Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery. “Col. Sanders has a very beautiful monument. It is made of gray granite, and there’s a bronze bust that…looks just like him. That’s primarily because his daughter helped create the bust.”

Sanders was born in Henryville, Indiana, but his likeness is associated with Kentucky thanks to his Kentucky Fried Chicken fame. He was buried in Louisville after his death in 1980.

“The gravesite became very popular after his interment here at Cave Hill,” says Higgs. “We had to install a yellow line leading directly back to his gravesite. So we often tell people to ‘follow the yellow brick road.’”

Harry Leon Collins

Cave Hill is also home to the distinctive memorial of magician Harry Collins.

“Harry Collins was also known as Mr. Magic,” says Higgs. “He was a magician. He was a salesman. He was a public relations guru. In 1970 he became the official magician and public relations spokesperson for the Frito Lay company.”

Collins’ memorial is a life-sized bronze cast, showing the magician with an outstretched hand, forever inviting an audience over to see him perform his next trick.

“He’s beckoning here immortally now for your attention,” says Higgs. “And he has it.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2504, which originally aired on October 26, 2019. Watch the full episode.

The Witches Tree

By Leslie Potter | 10/27/19 3:21 PM

In a Halloween-themed memory, Kentucky Life took a look back at a segment on The Witches Tree in Louisville.

The DuPont Mansion and Inn at the Park dates back to 1887, when it was built by Russell Houston, then president of the L and N Railroad. The showpiece mansion remains an impressive attraction to this day. But as with many notable old buildings, there are ghost stories associated with the DuPont.

“Back in the 1890s, not too long after the place was built, Annie Whipple was hired as a tutor for the children of the family,” says author Dave Domine. “One of the children was deathly ill. [Whipple] was trying to contact the spirit of this doctor; she was conducting kind of a séance. The doctor who she thought would be able to cure this child had just died the day before, so she reached out to try to contact him on the other side.”

But according to the story, Whipple’s actions, though well-intended, led to her demise. She met a witch at the tree, now called the Witches Tree, at the corner of Park and Sixth Street.

“A rogue spirit intercepted the messages and ended up killing Annie Whipple as a way of sort of teaching her a lesson for dabbling in the black arts,” says Domine.

For those who believe, Whipple’s ghost may still be lurking around the mansion.

“The guests that have stayed here have reported a number of different events,” says Herb Warren, co-owner of DuPont Mansion and Inn at the Park. “One of the guests I had among this business group began explaining a certain thing that he saw on the second floor. He described it as a transparent woman. The other gentleman at the breakfast table, his eyes widened like saucers and he said, ‘That’s what I saw!’

“A woman has been seen coming down the sweeping stairway, dressed in what appears to be Victorian garb,” says Warren. “The woman disappeared as she neared the bottom of the stairs.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2504, which originally aired on October 26, 2019. Watch the full episode.