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UK students help preserve historic African-American community

A group of students show their design proposals to community leaders.
Photo by Matt Barton, UK Ag Communications.
A group of students show their design proposals to community leaders.

A small hamlet in Woodford County that once was a free town for Black Americans after the Civil War is being preserved by University of Kentucky students. WUKY's Arlo Barnette has more on the story.

Established in 1871 on what was known as Crawfish Pike in Versailles, over 180 residents lived in Huntertown at its peak. According to the Kentucky Historical Society, Isham Railey and his uncle Abner C. Hunter purchased the 50-acre site for 34 mules and $5. They sold the land to formerly enslaved people, the first of whom was Civil War veteran Jerry Gatewood. Well-known Huntertown residents include Reverend Jesse Bottoms, Omaha Nebraska Black, and Gene Carter, Jr.

Flooding and sewer issues caused residents to relocate and the county to buy the land in the early 2000’s. On its 150th anniversary in August of last year, it was made into an interpretive community park through funding from the Woodford County Community Foundation and the Woodford Fiscal Court. A UK landscape architecture class worked on phase one of the project.

According to UK PR, a $42,000 UK Sustainability Challenge Grant sees new students in the class working with community partners to make the park more accessible to the public through long-term improvements including playgrounds, pavilions, a community garden, learning areas, and a partial recreation of the Riney-B Railroad, which once went through the community.

Third-year student Zoe Sermersheim spoke to LEX-18.

“The goal was to enhance the history of Huntertown. It was taken apart, and all that was left was some remnants of the buildings and some artifacts. So, what we wanted to do was actually create an educational experience as well as an enhancement of the site.”
UK student Zoe Sermersheim speaking to LEX-18

Preventative flooding measures are schedule to be implemented at the Huntertown Interpretive Community Park this summer, and more historical research signage should be up by this coming Juneteenth.