4:30 came so early this morning. So early in fact I rolled back over and slept until 5. In doing that I had to leap out of bed when my alarm went off and leave as quickly as possible. I was out the door and on the road by about 5:20. The grand total for the day was 485 miles. That 485 miles included 2 new Kmart stores, a mall in Louisville on Bardstown Road that I didnt even know existed, my customary stop at the Falls of the Ohio River State Park in Clarksville, Indiana, 2 Goodwill Outlets, 1 regular Goodwill store, Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis, and the Meadow Lake Wind Farm off I65 near Chalmers. Ill give another update tomorrow with a few more pictures from the day. Enjoy and thanks for reading!
Ballard County was formed from portions of Hickman County and McCracken County. Ballard County has the distinction of being the county in Kentucky that borders both Illinois and Missouri.It was named for Bland Ballard , a Kentucky pioneer and soldier who served as a scout for General George Rogers Clark during the American Revolutionary War, and later commanded a company during the War of 1812. On February 17, 1880, the courthouse was destroyed by a fire, which also destroyed most of the county’s early records. At this time the countyseat and courthouse was located in Blandville.
The county seat was transferred from Blandville to Wickliffe in 1882. This courthouse was built in 1903 with the designs of Missouri architect Jerome B. Legg. It is located in the heart of Wickliffe making it the county’s most prominent structure. On February 27, 1980 the courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Sometimes when I find one of these obscure, random places to write about in my blog its hard to find enough information to write a sufficient article. Others I uncover enough interesting facts and history that you could write for hours and that is the case with the Old Shawneetown State Bank.
The Shawneetown Bank, a four-story, brick and stone behemoth with five massive columns was built in 1839 and is the oldest bank building in the state.
When its charter was first granted — the first bank in Illinois Territory in 1816 — it housed a federal land office and was the hub of financial activity in Shawneetown, an important commercial center, home to the state’s thriving salt industry. That bank, which started in a log cabin in Shawneetown, collapsed in a financial panic that swept Illinois in the early 1820s, but its charter was retained. When prosperity returned in the mid 1830s, the bank reopened and the Bank of Illinois’ board of directors planned a new building.
On Aug. 3, 1839, trustees laid the cornerstone of the Shawneetown Bank; it opened for business in 1841. The bank’s style-Greek Revival-style, a popular one for banks of the period, was believed to express the American ideals of liberty and freedom.
Soon after the new building opened, however, another financial depression set in, causing the Bank of Illinois at Shawneetown to suspend operations in 1842. The building stood empty for a decade until the State Bank of Illinois opened there in 1854.
By that time, Shawneetown had fallen on hard times. Railroads and canals had cut into the river traffic upon which the town depended before the Civil War and afterward, the population gradually declined.
The bank housed numerous financial institutions from 1854 to the 1930s, but finally closed its doors in 1942 and was deeded to the state. Some restoration was completed in the 1970s, but budgetary problems prevented further work. In 1972 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Landmark Illinois, a state historical preservation organization, listed Shawneetown Bank as one of the 10 most endangered sites of 2009.
The Cairo-Ohio River Bridge carries US 51, 60 and 62 across the Ohio River from Wickliffe, Kentucky to Cairo, Illinois.
Of all the Ohio River crossings, it is the furthest downstream; the Mississippi River can be seen while crossing the bridge and looking westward.
Construction was awarded to Modjeski and Masters and the Mt. Vernon Bridge Company. It was finished in 1937 and rehabilitated in 1979. The bridge spans 5,863 feet and is 20 feet wide.
Today the Cairo Ohio River Bridge is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Two of my most fascinating and intruiging abandoned discoveries were by complete accident. McDowell County, West Virginia and Cairo, Illinois.
The first time I arrived in Cairo was in 2012 on spring break. I was headed for the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Little did I know the treasure trove of historical matter I was about to stumble upon.
The town, just like McDowell County did, has stuck with me since and I often find myself wondering about the history, current state and future of a town I have no ties to whatsoever.
Cairo is the southern-most settlement in the state of Illinois, it lies right at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers right at the corner of the state where Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky all meet. The town has been subject to a turbulent history which has lead to a steep decline in population. The town was founded in 1858. The population peaked during the 1920 census at over 15,000 people. By 1980 that number had fallen to 5,931. The 2015 US census estimate puts the total at 2,467. Thats a decline of just under 85% in less than 100 years.
What happened? What went wrong? For that information I am going to link you up to my buddy Sherman Cahal’s blog entry covering Cairo and its decline. His article can be found by clicking HERE.
The former Famous-Barr Department Store building sat on the vaccant lot to the left of the van in this picture. That building was still standing when I was here in the spring of 2012. Oddly enough, so was that van.
The post office is proof of the scope and size of Cairo in its original form.
As are the wide streets all through the town that are mostly bare. The main street even included a rail car of some kind at sometime. The rail is still visible in the brick street.
What few buildings are left standing in the Cairo business district are overgrown with trees and have fallen into a state of decay that is almost beyond repair. The really sad part about this is that much of the business district of Cairo has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/120051008@N03/32458816573/in/dateposted-public/” title=”Cairo, Illinois (March 2017)”> Over the next few weeks I will have several entries on this blog focusing on several landmarks in the city that are still standing, including an abandoned school and the abandoned hospital that has been closed for over 30 years.
Until then, please enjoy these pictures from around Cairo.
Over the past few days I have been rambling about the Bluegrass state and the southern edge of Illinois and a small corner of Missouri. Why you might ask? Well, like I stated in this blog earlier this week I just had to go back to Cairo one more time before the town declinds even further and also, as you might have figured out I have this weird obsession with docummenting and experiencing Sears / Kmart as much as possible, especially since their future doesnt look particularly bright. What does Sears and Kmart have to do with this area of the country?
Well in January, Sears Holdings announced they would close 7(SEVEN?!?!?!) more Kmart stores across the Bluegrass State. All of the ones that were closing that I hadnt been to were from Bowling Green West. Couple this with the fact that the stores close for good on or about March 19th (my spring break isnt until mid-late April) and the fact that once I got to Paducah I would only be 30 minutes from Cairo I just had to do what it took to make it happen.
It snowballed into a trip covering 4 states and by the time I realized I would only be less than an hour from one of the very last Sears stores built from the ground up ( built in 2006 ) AND it is also one of the very last Sears Grand stores still signed as such…..I covered a little over 900 miles, 7 new to me Kmart stores (side note: I have now been to every Kmart store currently opene in the bluegrass state! , 2 Sears stores, (1 closing and 1 Sears Grand) Multiple abandoned schools, throw in an abandoned hospital and the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and I have had a very busy, but fulfilling time. I will be covering all of these discoveries and explorations in the blog over the next month or so. I look forward to sharing my disooveries with you!
Back in March of 2012 I took a meandering road trip crossing back and forth across the Ohio River between Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and eventually Missouri. When I started this road trip just north of Louisville, I knew my ultimate endpoint was Cairo, Illinois, the southern most town in Illinois.
At this time the only significance I knew of about Cairo was that it was the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. I had no idea the deep history I would uncover when I actually visited the town.
Once I got to the town of Cairo I was floored with the amount of urban decay, and I say that in a very loving way. I hadnt been that impressed since I stumbled upon the coal towns of southern West Virginia.
Cairo was founded in 1858. The peak population of Cairo occured in 1920 at nearly 16,000 people. The 2015 estimate is fewer than 2,500.
According to updates on google earth many of the buildings in my photos are now demolished. In the very near future I am returning to Cairo complete with updated pictures and definitely more documentation than I had from the trip in 2012. Be on the lookout for the update in the next week or so!
The Big Four Bridge was first conceived in Jeffersonville in 1885 by various city interests. The Louisville and Jeffersonville Bridge Company was formed in 1887 to construct the Big Four Bridge, after a charter by the state of Indiana; Kentucky also chartered the company in 1888. The riverboat industry, a big economic factor in Jeffersonville, had requested that the bridge be built further upstream from the Falls of the Ohio, but the United States Army Corps of Engineers approved the building site, even after the vocal protestations.
Construction began on October 10, 1888. The Big Four Bridge would be the only Louisville bridge with serious accidents during its building; thirty-seven individuals died during its construction. The first twelve died while working on a pier foundation when a caisson that was supposed to hold back the river water flooded, drowning the workers. Another four men died a few months after that when a wooden beam broke while working on a different pier caisson.
The Big Four Bridge had one of the biggest bridge disasters in the United States, occurring on December 15, 1893 when a construction crane was dislodged by a severe wind, causing the falsework support of a truss to be damaged and the truss—with forty-one workers on it—to fall into the Ohio River. Twenty of the workers survived, but twenty-one died. The accident almost cost more lives, as a ferry crossing the Ohio River just barely missed being hit by the truss. Hours later, a span next to the damaged span also fell into the river, but was unoccupied at the time, causing no injuries. As a result, falsework was longitudely reinforced to prevent further occurrences, and also to prevent strong winds from causing similar damage by using special bracing on the bottom frame of the truss. Also, a new rule was enforced: “never trust a bolted joint any longer than is necessary to put a riveted one in place”.
The Big Four Bridge was finally completed in September 1895. Because of the location of the bridge and the growth of the Kennedy Interchange, the interchange had to avoid the columns that were on the approach to the bridge, causing the interchange to have several two-lane ramps rather than a single stretch of highway, and helped earn the nickname Spaghetti Junction. Due to the various accidents, the Louisville and Jeffersonville Bridge Company was financially strapped after building the bridge, and later in 1895 sold it to the Indianapolis-based Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway, also known as the Big Four Railroad. This gave the railway its first entry into the Louisville market, although the railroad would have likely used the bridge even if they had not bought it, as they desired access to Louisville.
The bridge is now used just for pedestrian traffic.
The Ironton-Russell Bridge is a metal truss bridge that connections the towns of Ironton, Ohio and Russell, Kentucky. This bridge opened in 1922 and was the first bridge to cross the Ohio River in this part of the tri state area (Kentucky, Ohio & West Virginia).
The bridge carries 2 traffic lanes and a sidewalk across the Ohio River.
In 2012 construction began on a replacement bridge just up stream from the current structure. When this new suspension / cable concrete structure is complete, the nearly 100 year old Ironton-Russell Bridge will be demolished.