Preservation Trailblazers: Exploring a legacy of historic preservation in Kentucky

The Farmington Historic Plantation in Louisville is on the National Register of Historic. | Courtesy of Farmington Historic Plantation

The Farmington Historic Plantation in Louisville is one of many Kentucky sites on the National Register of Historic Places. A celebration of these preserved places will take place in Frankfort on Oct. 14. | Courtesy of Farmington Historic Plantation

In October, the Kentucky Heritage Council will get together with a bunch of like-minded individuals and organizations to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

With the intention of stopping the wholesale destruction of large swaths of old neighborhoods and inner-city districts in the name of urban renewal and infrastructure improvement, the Act — signed by President Lyndon Johnson — created a National Register of Historic Places, National Historic Landmarks and State History Preservation Offices.

Following the establishment of the National Register, Section 106 of the Act mandated that federal agencies were to “undergo a review process for all federally funded and permitted projects that would impact sites listed on, or eligible for listing on, the National Register of Historic Places.”

Not long after, the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office was formed to implement the review process at the local level.

“One can’t truly understand the history of historic preservation in Kentucky without a healthy understanding of the NHPA and its positive influence,” says Craig Potts, executive director of the Heritage Council and state historic preservation officer. “This event will reflect on 50 years of successes, losses and milestones, and will take stock of the tremendous effort put forth by professionals, volunteers, advocates, leaders and regular citizens to preserve Kentucky’s irreplaceable cultural heritage.”

The day-long celebration, on Friday, Oct. 14, in downtown Frankfort, will include a morning and afternoon of concurrent sessions exploring Kentucky’s historic preservation legacy. Those will run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Orlando Brown House at the Liberty Hall Historic Site and the Old State Capitol, both National Historic Landmarks.

At 5:30 p.m., an evening of conversation at the historic Grand Theater will feature a panel designated by the KHC as “the Preservation Trailblazers.”

This will include:

  • Steve Collins, chairman of KHC
  • Edie Bingham, well-known Louisville advocate for preservation and education
  • David Cartmell, mayor of Maysville
  • Nash Cox, Frankfort-based historian and past president of Liberty Hall
  • Dick DeCamp, first director of the Blue Grass Trust and head of Lexington’s first historic commission
  • Betty Dobson, grassroots preservationist (whose efforts helped save Paducah’s Hotel Metropolitan)
  • Barbara Hulette, Danville-based advocate and fundraiser
  • Dr. John Kleber, historian and editor of the “Kentucky Encyclopedia”
  • David Morgan, retired state historic preservation officer
  • Chuck Parrish, retired historian with the Louisville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Kentucky Heritage Council’s first staffer
  • Keith Runyon, co-chair of the Metro Louisville Historic Preservation Advisory Task Force and spokesman for Preservation Louisville, representing Christy Brown
  • Patrick Snadon, professor of architecture and interior design at the University of Cincinnati and co-author of “The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe”
  • Jim Thomas, longtime executive director of Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill
  • Alicestyne Turley, director of the Carter G. Woodson Center and assistant professor of African and African-American studies at Berea College

“This is intended to be a fun, conversational event,” says Diane Comer, public information officer of the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office. “It’s an opportunity for these great leaders of the Kentucky preservation movement to talk to each other and to the audience, reminisce about things that they fought for, recall the very hard-fought battles that were won as well as those that were lost, and also to use the past to try and predict the future. There are still challenges, in every city, town and neighborhood.”

Bringing out The Trailblazers, she says, is a way to honor some of those who were there to talk about what happened and how Kentucky would look very different if not for the legislation.

“That’s why we’re doing the event. It’s important to recognize not just that the legislation was passed but also the legacy of what it’s brought about.”

The event is open to the public. Admission is $66 for early online registrants through September 30, $85 after that. It includes a continental breakfast, box lunch and closing celebration. Attendance to the closing celebration only is $25.

Registration is open now, and a complete schedule has been released.