Monday, August 11, 2014

Mile Stones Of The Past? Threatened In The Future?

I received an email from a friend just after the work on the Woodland Triangle began. He was concerned that they crew replacing the sidewalk along High St has also removed the historic white milestone. It was something that both of us thought would be a travesty.

When I drove home that night, I went out of my way to check and it is still there. This time luck was on our side.

There is a description in George Ranck's History of Lexington,of a survey ordered by the town's trustees in the spring of 1791 and taken verbatim from the Trustee's Book.
"Surveyed by order of the trustees of the town of Lexington, 204 acres of land, including the court-house of Fayette county in the center, in a circular figure of two miles in diameter. Beginning at A (a point), one mile southeast from the said court-house, at a post on the northeast side of the road, running thence south 56 (degrees) west 125 poles to a post crossing Tate's creek road at 85 poles;”
The Lexington Press, in their edition of May 5, 1871, reported that the City council proposed to mark the city boundary with a ring of stones placed 500 feet apart. A week later a crew under the direction of Col. De La Pradele were busy setting the stones to mark the boundaries of City at one mile from Court House. This came just two months after a proposal to make the city limits a square rather that a circle.

Work was still progressing in November of the following year. By 1873 the City Council voted to leave the city boundaries the same and new stones be put up at appropriate distances.

Now, if you take a one mile radius from the old Court House and superimpose it on a map, that point A is almost exactly where Walton Ave intersects E Main St. Following that sweeping arc to the southwest toward E High St., or what would have been called the road to Tate's creek in those days, you will find a white stone set in the ground. It is about 10 to 12 inches to a side and well weathered. It is also one mile from the old Court House.

One mile in the other direction from the Court House on Leestown Rd, just opposite the entrance to the Calvary cemetery, is a similar stone, also set well in the ground and weathered. Neither of these stones have any plaques or markings to tell what they are (or what I suspect them to be.) I believe them to be the two remaining stones from that project of over 140 years ago.

When I spoke to the city's construction manager, overseeing the work at the Woodland Triangle, he had no idea that the stone was even there. I also found out the the city's Division of Historic Preservation was requiring an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness for replacing the sidewalk, even after the work was completed. This is required for all historic overlay zones, yet no one is looking out for a possibly 145 year old stone marker?

Are these the only remaining stones? Have the others been carelessly removed because someone did not know (or care) what they were? It would stand to reason that other stones would appear along the aforementioned arc at 500 foot intervals.

In 1871 the Woodland Park did not exist nor did any of the adjacent neighborhoods and that interval would span approximately half way through the future park. The fall of 1884 saw several crews of men construct a large lake of no more than 3 acres. This lake, called Lake Chenosa, was placed squarely on the city boundary. Surely, someone remembered the boundary stone placement of a dozen years previous so as to avoid them.

By my calculations, a stone 500 feet along the arc would appear near the existing first base dugout structure of the ball-field which occupies the former “lake” site. Approximately twenty or so feet past and ten or so feet behind. I have not been there lately to look for it and it does not show up in any recent aerials. Also, some years ago the Parks maintenance crews reworked that hillside for drainage issues.

It puzzles me as to why these stones, if they are what I think they are, are not identified. This town is so quick to claim anything old as historic and they have rushed to protect items of lesser age. We have even been known to remove major historical artifacts from their original context, thereby diminishing their true worth. This has happened to at least two county boundary markers.

I repeat, I believe that we dodged a travesty recently and I hope that we can prevent it in the future.