Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Democratic Visions Bus Trip Day 3

Today we started our touring with a stop at the Confederate Monument on Third Street in Louisville. But, before viewing the monument, we were treated to a talk on antebellum and Civil War Louisville by Dr. J. Blaine Hudson, the dean of Arts and Sciences at UofL. Dr. Hudson also spoke about the plans for a future "freedom park" to tell the Louisville Union and African American story, both of which he believes have been ignored. He contends that a number of ex-Confederates moved to Louisville after the Civil War and took business and political positions that helped influence the Confederate interpretation of the war in memorial form. Although the city did have some Confederate sympathizers during the war, the majority of the population was Union in sentiment and in support.

The monument was erected in 1895 by the Kentucky Women's Confederate Monument Association at a cost of $12,000. The monument is over 70 feet tall and represents the Confederate infantry, artillery, and cavalry with different bronze figures. The monument is owned by the city of Louisville and has drawn a firestorm of protest over the years according to Dr. Hudson.

We have asked the teachers to view the Civil War from the perspective of memory during their time on the trip. They have been asked to view the different parks, homes, monuments, and other sites, and determine which form of Civil War memory is being invoked in its interpretation. David Blight's three categories of Civil War memory for his book Race and Reunion are; the Lost Cause, Reconciliationist, or Emancipationist.

After spending some time at the monument we then drove out Bardstown Road to Farmington Historic Plantation. I have been wanting to visit Farmington since moving to Kentucky a couple of months ago, and finally got my chance today. My half of the group was treated to an informative tour of the house by Rachel Fautz. The house was built in 1815-1816 for John and Lucy Speed by architect Paul Skidmore. The Speeds were both Virginia natives whose families had relocated to Kentucky in the 1790s.
Farmington was primarily a 500 acre hemp plantation, although they grew other crops as well. The productivity and profitability of the 50 plus slave work force is shown in the elegance of the home and outbuildings. Only a few of the original outbuildings still stand, including a stone barn/stable and the spring house.
John Speed died in 1840 and left the house and 123 acres to his wife Lucy; the slaves were divided among the children and Lucy. Joshua, one of the Speeds sons, who had been the roommate of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, returned to Louisville to manage the plantation shortly thereafter.
In 1841 Lincoln visited Farmington for about three weeks in the late summer to recover from a bout of depression. This was Lincoln's only real extended stay on a slave plantation during his lifetime.
Austin Peay, wife of a Speed daughter named Peachy, bought Farmington in 1846, but died three years later of cholera. Peachy owned Farmington until 1865 when she began to sell off pieces of the land. The Henry Dresher family bought the house and 43 acres in 1865 and they owned it until 1908 when it was sold to Joseph Bischoff, Jr. Historic Homes Foundation bought the house in 1958 and it opened as a house museum the following year.
While at Farmington, we also were able to experience their new exhibit in honor of Lincoln's Bicentennial called, Lincoln and Farmington: An Enduring Friendship. The exhibit features a theatre-in-the-round type experience that uses an audio soundtrack that relates to objects and panel highlights around the room. The exhibit is very professional in appearance and research.
I suggest that if you haven't been to Farmington try and get to see it the next time you are near Louisville, it is certainly worth your time and money.

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