I realize that probably a very small amount of my readers are from my hometown of Lexington, Missouri, but I would still like to reflect on an amazing new book by the late Roger E. Slusher and the Lexington Historical Association. Images of America: Lexington kept me from going to bed at a decent hour two nights in a row… and it started the second I picked it up off my doorstep. I stared at the pictures. I compared the pictures. I pulled up current locations on Google Maps. And I did a lot of imagining.
Growing up in Lexington, as a child you quickly learn about the Civil War battle that took place there. For me, I was always specifically interested in the history of the buildings, what was where, what used to be, etc. I wonder what my now small and quiet hometown was like when it was the third largest city in the state, hustling and bustling with four colleges at one point, theaters and opera houses, an entire block full of saloons, headquarters for the Pony Express, factories, coal mines… the list goes on. I’ve seen a lot of the local photo collections that people have put together over the years, but I hadn’t seen so many of the photos in this book. Many of the photos are aerial or taken from the City Hall dome, and they are breathtaking. (I only wish they would have chosen one of the beautiful street photos for the cover.) When you think of the historic Main Street and Franklin, you think about the old buildings that still exist being the original structures. Then I find out that many of these beautiful and historical buildings were not the first to be on those lots. And there were blocks and blocks of buildings, neighborhoods, farms, and homes that just aren’t there anymore. If I went back in a time machine to the mid to late 1800s, I’m quite sure I would not be able to find my way around.
Lexingtonians know that there is something special about their town, but this book helps you to realize just how important those remaining gems of buildings and locations are. Lexington has unfortunately lost a few of these gems this year. I suppose these things are just bound to happen with the passing of time, but I wonder if residents felt the same loss when they lost buildings a hundred or more years ago? It also kind of makes you wonder if 100 years from now people will be fighting to save the historic Pizza Hut, the last remaining Sonic Drive-In in the nation, or the beautiful and historic Woodland Creek district. Or like many cities in the early 1900s, will we not recognize the future value of our neighborhoods and just bulldoze them down to build new?
Fascinating book! If you’re in town, you can pick one up at The River Reader today!
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