FOUND! Kmart #9610 — Village Center Mall — Harlan, Kentucky

If you havent caught on yet I have a fascination with many things.  If Im “into something”  Im in it for the longhaul and almost obsess over it for long periods of time.  One of my obsessions is Kmart, another is my home town of Harlan, Kentucky.

I come from a generation of Harlanites (yes its a word) whose primary retail destination as a child was Kmart and the other stores located at the Village Center Mall.   Walmart didnt arrive in Harlan until 1991.  Until then Kmart and Magic Mart had the corner on the mass merchandiser market in town.

Sadly, the Kmart store in Harlan closed in the spring of 1995.  The memories of this store still stay with me today.  Naturally with the advent of the internet I have always thought that a photo would pop up of the actual store.  Those wishes had not came true until last weekend when I stumbled upon a website known  as Vintage Aerial.  I immediately searched for Harlan County and discovered that there were sets from the early to mid 1980s on dozens of sets of photos.  It took me the better part of an evening, but I finally found it.

Kmart in Harlan KY -- 1984

I can close my eyes and almost taste the superman ice cream from the deli. The future isnt bright for Kmart as a chain. As Ive stated in this blog before, if (when) they finally go, I am probably going to be very dramatic, over react and travel a ton documenting the stores before they are gone. Someone has to do all three of those things right?
Kmart in Harlan KY -- 1984

Diving Into The Archives

Recently, and by recently I mean within the past 72 hours, I have been exposed to a vast array of historic aerial photography archives from my home town that are readily (with a fee) available to the public from as far back as 1952. The first that I decided to purchase is this shot:
1952 Aerial View of Where I live. For comparison as to what you are looking at here is the same image marked with where my house is now. 1952
For even further reference for anyone familiar (IE family) Here is notations of what each building was that showed up on the land in 1952.
1952 None of these structures are still around today. Its really neat to see a visual representation, especially from the air to show what I have heard my grandmother and my parents and aunts and uncles talk about for years and years. For a representation of how things have changed in this little community I took a screen shot of the most recent google earth image (fall 2016) from the same exact location 2015 Aerial View of my Neighborhood
If you notice in the 1952 photos the road has clearly just been constructed as the banks where they blasted the mountain off hasnt grown back at all. You can also make out the old road if you look close enough. According to my dad the old road crossed the river right across from my house and went across and around the other side of the river. You can see that the culvert right by my house has clearly not even been installed yet. Its amazing to me that you can find things such as this on the internet. A lot has changed in 65 years. If you would like more information about these aerial photography archives visit the site by clicking HERE

Winter Storm Jonas

Snow isnt a rarity here in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. In fact there is a pretty good chance you will see some of the stuff from late October all the way to late April around here. It is however a rarity that we get big snows….This last storm, Jonas was the third in the past 11 months to dump more than a foot on the bluegrass state. Thats pretty astonishing, and pretty rad for snow lovers for sure. These are a few of the photos Ive taken around the house since the storm hit, seeing as how my cars are still stuck in the driveway and probably will be for a few more days….Im getting a touch of cabin fever. Enjoy.
Winter Storm Jonas

Winter Storm Jonas

Winter Storm Jonas

Winter Storm Jonas

Winter Storm Jonas

Cumberland Middle School — Harlan County, Kentucky

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Cumberland Middle School or historically known as Cumberland School is located in the city of Cumberland, Kentucky in the northern part of Harlan County.

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The school was completed in 1936 and was funded by the Federal emergency Administration of Public Works.

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The building is a very long shape that is kind of shaped like an elongated U, with the gymnasium shooting off at one end.  The building archetect was John T. Cillio and was built by Harlan Construction Company.

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This structure served as a K-8 school for the city of Cumberland until the new Cumberland Elementary School which served students in grades K-4 from Cumberland, Benham and Totz Elementary Schools.

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From 1993 until 2001 this building served as the newly formed Cumberland Middle School which served all students in the tri cities area in grades 5-8.

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In 2001 faced with aging facilities and a budget problem, the Harlan County School Board voted to close Cumberland Middle School along with Verda Elementary and Loyal Elementary Schools.

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At the end of the 2000-2001 school year approximately 280 students were sent to Cumberland Elementary and Cumberland High School from the closed Cumberland Middle School with 5th and 6th grades going to the elementary school and the high school absorbing the 7th and 8th grades.

The facility is now home to several community agencies and is utilized to a great degree.

Four Mile School — Harlan County, Kentucky

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The Fourmile (Four Mile?)  School was located near the intersection of US 119 and Kentucky 840 Just to the west of the cities of Harlan and Loyall.  FourMile

I can’t find a definite opening date for this school, but some of the architectural cues tell me that it was probably constructed in the 1920s.  The tall windows and the fact that it was built out of brick and not stone tells me that it probably was constructed pre-wpa era.  I also found this picture on blogger that denotes it as being taken at fourmile school circa 1924.  That photo can be found by clicking HERE.  Also, the Harlan County School System has a nice little feature on their website focused to former schools in the county.  A photo of the Fourmile School was uploaded there and it is attached below….

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I have no idea who owns this building but I would absolutely love to go inside of it and document its existence.  These photos really show the poor condition of the roof and these were taken before the massive snow storms we had last year in this area that collapsed roofs all over the county.

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I also can’t find a definite closure date for this school, but my best inclination is to think that it probably closed around 1966 when nearby Loyall High School was turned into a strictly K-8 facility when James A. Cawood High School opened.

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As always, if you have any information or stories about this school or building please feel free to comment or message me!  Thanks for reading.

Mary Alice, Kentucky 40964

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The United States Post Office for Mary Alice, Kentucky was located on state route 72 about 6 miles from downtown Harlan.

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The Post Office was originally constructed in the late 1980s and is nearly identical to just about any small rural post office constructed in this part of the country during that era.  A picture of the post office from 1993 can be found by clicking HERE

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In November of 2011 the Mary Alice post office closed its doors and the building has sent been put up for sale by the US Government.

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So….if your dream has ever been to live in a 600 square foot post office building….here’s your chance!

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Harlan County Coal Monument and old 119 Bridge at Baxter

I don’t know the story of this monument, who built it, when it was built or even why it was built in Baxter.  I do know that my dad says that this thing has been at this spot for as long as he can remember.  Before the road changed and the bypass was built, this was the intersection of US 421 and US 119.  Of course this was way before my time, but I imagine it was the busiest intersection in the county.

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To my knowledge this monument has never been refurbished and stands today as it has since it was built.  I would love to see the county government come in and build a park on the adjoining riverbank and on the abandoned steel truss bridge next to it.

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This bridge has been closed as long as I can remember.  It once carried US 119 across the Cumberland River.  Such a beautiful structure, that is going to waste.

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I guess once the bypass was finished, the state saw no reason to keep this bridge up to date and operational.

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AS you can see in this picture, the coal monument is right in the middle of the road, I bet that caused some traffic back in the day.  lol.