Secret, historical places in danger of vanishing

Shippingport Island (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Shippingport Island (Source: WAVE 3 News)
The Garden of Our Lady of Lourdes (Source: WAVE 3 News)
The Garden of Our Lady of Lourdes (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Kevin Gibson and David Mattingly (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Kevin Gibson and David Mattingly (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - You might drive by them every day and never notice. You might have lived here all your life and never even knew they were there.

Kevin Gibson, the author of "Secret Louisville," showed me historical places in WAVE Country.

Gibson's collection of the weird, wonderful and obscure reveals endangered locations where history and memories could soon become extinct. Like an island littered with driftwood that tells an amazing story.

"It was less than a hundred years ago there were thousands of people living here," Gibson said.

Shippingport Island in Louisville's West End was a happening place for 200 years. Wiped out in the 1937 flood, the only sounds we hear in the 21st century are the waves of a restless Ohio River.

"Even now, we're making more history, we're making more richness. But stopping to remember what's been here will help inform us for the future," Gibson said.

So what does it say if something once so alive could become so forgotten? Kentuckiana is full of these places.

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Like the Barnett Cemetery in Charlestown.

"Obviously these places are going to go away so I like to appreciate them while I have them," Gibson said.

Remains of settlers from the 1800s now share the land with an industrial park.

It's kind of like this place, The Garden of Our Lady of Lourdes, just off Eastern Parkway. Built almost 100 years ago, it's now next door to an apartment complex.

"Everything you show me, I feel like it's that close to disappearing," I said.

"This place is a state a local historical landmark so this one won't anytime soon. But a lot of the places we've seen, yeah, you never know," Gibson said.

Even the protected prayer grotto, once part of an infirmary, still shows signs of neglect. The peace and meaning it holds may not be able to compete with the pace of the information age.

"Think about how many tweets do you see a day, how many Facebook messages," Gibson said. "There's so many things distracting us."

Gibson's book lists 89 points of interest, all easily accessible, all with great stories to tell. But not all easy to find.

The last place we went may be the strangest of all. Better known as Sauerkraut Cave, the remnants of a tunnel that used to lead to a state asylum, now on the grounds of EP Tom Sawyer State Park.

"Somebody obviously knows about this place," I said.

"Yeah there's a lot of graffiti in here," Gibson said.

Today the damp and shadowy hole is filled with mystery and old tales of patient abuse that chill the imagination, but the dripping limestone ceiling says it's days too are numbered.

"This place could be gone in no time," I said.

"Oh yeah, yeah. You gotta think it's going to collapse at some point," Gibson said.

Luckily, not today. We walked away as scenes like this slip silently into oblivion.

I grew up here, learned about Louisville history in school. But never heard about places like this, so this was an eye-opening experience for me.
All I can say is get out the door. Find these amazing places and keep the memories alive.

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