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Program 620

1. railroad history at High Bridge
2. Louisville history with Tom Owen
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Jessamine County

For more information:
• The High Bridge entry in the University Press of Kentucky’s Atlas of Kentucky has a map of the area and a photo of the bridge.
• For “promotional” photos of High Bridge through the years, check out Jon Hagee’s personal postcard collection.

Producer: Dave Shuffett
Videographer: Scott Neukam
Audio: Gary Mosley

Don’t Look Down

High Bridge

When the High Bridge spanning the Kentucky River between Jessamine and Mercer counties was completed in 1877, it was a national event: President Rutherford B. Hayes himself came to dedicate it.

The reason for the fuss? High Bridge, designed by Charles Shaler Smith, was one of the engineering wonders of its age. With its cantilevered span soaring 275 feet above the river, it was the highest bridge in North America—and the highest railroad bridge in the world.

The Cincinnati Southern Railroad hadn’t originally intended for High Bridge to be a destination in itself. Needing to literally reconnect with the South in the post-Reconstruction years, railroad officials had planned a route from Cincinnati through to Chattanooga. Since the Cincinnati Southern already had a terminus in Nicholasville, they chose the High Bridge site as the closest practical spot to cross the river’s cliff-bordered Palisades section. (In fact, the Lexington & Danville Railroad had attempted to span the same chasm with a suspension bridge in the 1850s. That project, headed by well-known bridge builder John Roebling, got as far as the construction of two massive stone anchoring towers, but then was abandoned. The towers, never used, were finally torn down in 1929.)

But once High Bridge was open, both the railroad owners and local businessmen recognized a good thing. Soon special excursion trains were delivering partygoers to an on-site park, and High Bridge became a tourist attraction. It was a popular place to celebrate as the 19th century turned to the 20th.

High Bridge has long since been eclipsed as an engineering feat, of course, although it was strengthened in 1911 and double-tracked in 1929. As the 21st century approached, the surrounding hoopla had died down considerably. Though the bridge itself is still in service, the High Bridge community post office closed in 1976. This visit by Kentucky Life host Dave Shuffett brings the bridge’s tourist heyday briefly back to life through memorabilia collected by a local historian as well as the recollections of long-time area residents.

Jefferson County

Producer: Gary Pahler

Guided Tour

Louisville history with Tom Owen

There’s more history in store—of both a civic and personal nature—as we talk about Louisville with Tom Owen, a native of the River City whose affection for his hometown is evident in this profile.

A former alderman and mayoral candidate, Owen is also an archivist and teacher of library sciences at the University of Louisville. Aided by archival footage and photographs, he spins a tale about how Louisville has grown and changed and about his own adventures as a chronicler of both city and university history.

If you’d like to explore Louisville’s history further, here are some online starting points:

Jefferson County

For more information:
Riverside, the Farnsley-Moremen Landing, 7410 Moorman Rd., Louisville, KY 40272, (502) 935-6809

Bonus Video

Scenes from Riverside, the Farnsley-Moremen Landing

Another place important to Louisville history is featured in the “music video” that closes this edition. In the 19th century, Riverside was a thriving farm, home of the Farnsley family and later the Moremens, who grew crops both to feed themselves and to trade with steamboats and river travelers. The families also operated a ferry across the Ohio River to Indiana. Today, Riverside, the Farnsley-Moremen Landing is a 300-acre historic site owned by Jefferson County and the focus of ongoing archaeological investigations into antebellum life.

This brief video presents scenes from the house and grounds, which include both a formal garden and a kitchen garden where volunteers grow heirloom varieties of vegetables like those the Farnsleys and Moremens might have eaten. Kentucky Life visited one of the archaeological digs at Riverside earlier this season, in Program 609.

SEASON 6 PROGRAMS: 601602603604605606607608: The Dixie Highway609
610: Along U.S. 68611612613614615616617618619620621622623

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