Saturday, October 3, 2015

Friday, Oct. 2, 2015 -- I never really comprehended what my neighborhood represented when I was a kid, but Maple Hill was truly a microcosm of small-town post-World War II America.

Technically, Maple Hill consists of the north side of West Stephen Foster from Jones Avenue west to the city limits. These homes were build prior to World War II.

The Kennett Addition was the actual name for my neighborhood, which was the south side of West Stephen Foster from Kennett Avenue west to State Street -- encompassing three blocks.

The first block -- from Kennett to South Elm Grove -- was commercial development. The Hite family owned half of the block. Freddy Hite managed Hite's Grocery, and Hite's Cafe. The building had an "el" that extended parallel to South Kennett that housed a coin laundry and probably other busineses over time. In the years since the coin laundry closed, that part of the building has been used as apartments from time to time.

The other half of the block was Joe Hill's Gulf station. Joe Hill's was a traditional full-service station with three bays. Joe had a wrecker too, and he kept it parked on the corner of West Stephen Foster and South Elm Grove, right next to a phone booth that was there. The wrecker faced east and was parked parallel with Stephen Foster.

The next two blocks on the south side of West Stephen Foster were largely a mix of commercial and residential. There were three homes on Stephen Foster in the block between South Elm Grove and South Center street which took half the block, the balance was the former auto dealership building owned by WGA Sympson and known as Sympson Motors.

I don't remember much about Sympson's garage when it was a dealership; WGA died in the mid-60s and the dealership closed. I do remember that the letters on the building were visible for many years after it closed.

Bob Skaggs purchased the building and moved is business, Skaggs Electric, in it. He sold all sorts of appliances and later operated a Radio Shack store, though not at the Skaggs Electric location.

Bob also did some commercial electrical work and two-way radio work. He closed his business in the late 80s or early 90s, and he and his son hit the hamfest circuit for several years selling off surplus junk he had accumulated over the years.

The property was huge; it had a large open garage at the rear, and a large two story showroom with glass windows on three sides. It formerly had an overhead door for driving cars in and out of the show room.

When Skaggs sold appliances, he had an impressive number of appliances for sale there; as a boy I remember that the Hotpoint Appliance sign stated lit all night, and I could see it from the upstairs window of my house, like a beacon.

I grew up on South Center Street at 116, which was the last house on the right facing South Center in the first block.

Moving onto the next block of West Stephen Foster between Center and State Street .... Bardstown Auto Parts was on the corner of Center and Stephen Foster. It faced South Center and it was quite a hub of activity. More about it later.

The Rogers family owned Bardstown Auto Parts as well as the family home next door, which faced Stephen Foster. I don't know why, but I never knew the family that lived there, they kept to themselves.

Moving west, the next lot was empty; many years later a small commercial building was built there. But for many, many years it was mostly an overgrown empty lot. Next to the lot was a tire business/ garage that has been site of one auto-related business or another since I can remember.

For many years they focused largely on tires and large truck and tractor tires. I don't think we did any business with them as a family. Willie Edelen operated Edelen Tires there for some years I think.

There was a path that came out next to the tire business that cut over to Kurtz Avenue in two empty building lots there, and as a kid we used to walk that path. There was an old school bus parked next to the tire business, and on weekends we used to go explore the inside of the bus. It was parked there for what seemed like years.

The ground around the tire business seemed to be black from grease and oil. The driveway was gravel, though it seemed dirty and black. I wouldn't be surprised if the ground was very containated with old oil and grease.

Over the years, the front of the building was bricked, and the garage bays were closed. I'm not sure what sort of business is there now.

There are three homes in a row going west from here, two of which were recently rezoned to residential (when one owner, Jimmy Vittitow, tried to sell the house next to the tire business building, the sale was stopped because the house was zoned business and not residential. The homes were never locations for businesses, but ended up with B-3 zoning).

The third house is the home to former Nelson County Sheriff C.E. Allen, who died years ago. His wife Betty still lives there. The homes in the area were all originally sided with asbestos shingles, and many years ago, C.E. had his home bricked. My Daddy had considered the same thing, but after seeing C.E. had his house bricked, he decided against it -- not because it didn't turn out nice, but because it really didn't change the appearance much. In fact, because the other houses were built on the same floor plans, it would look more like putting lipstick on a pig and expecting to come up with a thoroughbred horse.

The last two homes on the block are small; the first one is empty at present, having been mostly remodeled but left uncompleted. The home was recently for sale, but remains unsold and empty. The last house on the corner of State and Stephen Foster is small and well kept.

The next house past State Street is the home of former school board member William Cross. Its a very nice bedford stone home that is currently owned by Barton's 1792 Distillery. They purchased the home with the intent of using the property for an interpretive center, but those plans fell thru. They remodeled some existing buildings on the distillery property for that purpose and the house remains empty (sadly).


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