Monday, October 1, 2012

Uncover Another Downtown Stream

I have been spending some time researching the origins of local street names and some of them are really fascinating. Some are fairly simple to deduce while others have a hidden back story and some have no apparent rhyme or reason. One of those in the Ashland Park area is Ridgeway Road.

I am aware that a majority of the Ashland Park subdivision is within the Town Branch watershed, along with the early portion of Chevy Chase and the shopping center. At first I wondered if Ridgeway was placed along this high ground atop the ridge (if you could really call it that). That honor goes to Chinoe Rd, although the actual high points is east of that, which is two intersections east of Ridgeway.

This ridge and the direction of water flow from it brought to mind another question that has been vexing me for some time. The natural westward flow from the Chinoe/Fontaine intersection is toward the Ashland Estate house and through the present day Slashes Road median. On the original concept drawings for the subdivision development, Slashes and the natural water feature's intersection with the Tates Creek Road (now called High St.) are shown as a design element of an entry to the residential area.

The stream, at this point, still carries a substantial amount of water since there are two large diameter storm drainage pipes and culverts built into the foundation of the Chevy Chase Plaza to handle it. Does it match the flow of Town Branch is a good question, but they are both underground.

If this stream was at the surface, it would flow through the parking lot of the Town & Country apartments, under South Ashland Ave and behind the Kroger store before roughly paralleling Euclid Ave. It would bisect the blocks of Marquis, Park and Oldham Avenues, pass under Woodland Ave, follow the rear lot lines of Rose Lane and enter the University campus.

Before the University of Kentucky acquired the present campus, the property was a city park and fairgrounds, with many pathways and a water feature – a stream. The stream would pass between what is now the Singletary Center and the Fine Arts building, pick up inflow from Maxwell Springs, under a portion of the original Stoll Field, the student center and South Limestone. The parking structure, the Donaldson building, the stream generating plant and some of the Reynolds building property are all in the path of this waterway

On the west side of South Broadway, it appears that the stream has long been put into a pipe underground as it does not show up on the Sanborn fire insurance maps of 1907. Could this waterway have been covered over before Town Branch? I doubt it, but the 1886 Sanborn map does show a surfaced Town Branch as does the 1890 version.

A large, double box culvert runs under Davis Bottom and the present Southend Park, just showing enough of it to make a pavement for Byars Ave (off McKinley St), then through the Irishtown area around the Driscoll St passing of the railroad track. It finally empties into the Town Branch where the Norfolk-Southern crosses both Manchester St. and the Corman tracks.

I have never seen a name for this waterway. Some maps just call it a “drainage ditch” and many of the early Lexington maps do not recognize it at all. The 1912 map drawn by J. T. Slade is probably the only one which depicts the total stream length.

It has just as much history associated with it as Town Branch, short of having a town plat based upon its path for a short section. It has been impounded on several occasions for uses both social and commercial, as many a baptism took place in the pond behind the steam mill on Bolivar and more than one college boy took his girl out for a boating beside Buell Armory.

I also wonder how the kids in the neighborhoods from Ashland Park to the University would had enjoyed a surface stream to play in (Probably as much as the ponds of Clifton Heights). Would the neighborhood streets south of Euclid be cul-de-sacs if they had left the stream alone?

With all of the talk about re-surfacing the Town Branch and a call for designs, I would not even suggest a similar treatment here, I just thought that I would “uncover” another downtown stream.


WaterWatchdog said...

The stream you mention is a tributary of Town Branch, It rises at around Slashes, Sycamore and roughly parallels Euclid. Like many headwater streams, it was placed in a culvert long ago.

The stream continues parallel to Euclid beneath the University of Kentucky Book Store and Student Center, going under Limestone at about the Kennedy Book Store. The culvert/stream continues on underneath Versailles Road at Irish Town, (The large concrete culvert can be seen and followed to Manchester Street) The waterway daylights just west of the Rail Road Trestle into Town Branc Proper. You can see the opening at Manchester Street. The stream is highly polluted, but, what else is new in Lexington....

WaterWatchdog said...

The stream you mention is a tributary of Town Branch that parallels Euclid, flows just south of Singletary Center, under neath the UK Book Store and Student Center. It travels through Irish Town under the Versailles Road Viaduct and enters Town Branch Proper at Manchester Street just to the west of the Rail Road Trestle that crosses Manchester. Needless to say this is a polluted little "creek". But, do you want to jackhammer it up like Town Branch? Why not?