Tearing, Burning, Falling Down- Losing History and Heritage in Small Towns

Ivan Potter, Regional Geographer

Tearing, Burning, Falling Down- Losing History and Heritage in Small Towns | Western Kentucky, building collapse, economic development, Murray, Fulton, Bardwell, Mayfield, before the tornado,

The old location of Clinton Bank being taken down in early 2018. There are no plans for a replacement.

Editor's Note: This analysis from 2018 feels prophetic. Many of the downtown buildings in Mayfield were heritage brick buildings.

The 21st Century has been very cruel to many small town Central Business Districts (CBDs) in far West Kentucky.

Clinton in Hickman County, population 1,287, is but one example of how Mother Nature has conspired with modern business to irrevocably change prime shopping areas.

From 2004 up to 2018, a total of 19 buildings out of some 49 buildings located within a nine block Central Business district ceased to exist. This is a 39% rate of commercial, civic, and religious building loss and destruction.

Extreme rains, winds, droughts, ice and snow storms took out 14 buildings. Most of these were 100 year old two story brick buildings. These building were made from bricks fired in 1890's through 1930's. Most of these buildings walls were three bricks deep for strong construction. Unfortunately, the locally made brick mortar is highly susceptible to deterioration.

Extreme weather usually concerned the issue of heavy rains, ice, snow, and fierce winds that attacked the roofs of these buildings. Once the integrity of the roof is compromised, it is only a short matter of time before the water and other extreme elements of Mother Nature take a building down. At right, a corner of Murray's downtown was lost to collapse.

Other towns and cities in far West Kentucky's Jackson Purchase that witnessed major loss in their CBDs include Wingo, Fulton, Hickman, Bardwell, Mayfield, and Murray. Falling down, falling down building collapses

Extreme weather hit hardest the cities of Clinton, Fulton, Wingo and Bardwell. Fires were a major factor in Murray. Murray lost eight buildings to fires.

Business changes took out most of the buildings lost in downtown Mayfield. Here was the example of new commerce replacing old commerce. CVS Drugs stands where five buildings (Eastside of Court House Square) once stood. Banks replaced five buildings (Northside of the Court House downtown district). Another 10 buildings (entire Southern block of downtown Mayfield) was lost when plans to replace aging buildings fell through.

Bardwell lost 12 buildings its downtown district through the impact of tornadoes and high winds. The little community of Wingo lost 10 buildings from a combination of fires, winds, and rain. At right, high winds collapsed the roof of a building in downtown Bardwell.

Many of these buildings loss were made in a period of time when local commerce required two story construction of 80 ft. long and 25 ft. wide.

In a nutshell:

Clinton - population 1,287 lost 19 buildings for 39 % of its central business district.

Wingo - population 642 lost 10 buildings for 59 % of its central business district.

Fulton - population 2,147 lost 5 buildings or 7 % of its central business district

Hickman - population 2,131 lost 14 buildings for 56 % of its central business district.

Bardwell - population 799 lost 12 buildings for 34 % of its central business district.

Mayfield - population 10,300 lost 25 buildings for 56 % of its central business district.

Murray - population 19,028 lost 12 buildings for 27 % of its central business district.

Overall, from 2000 through 2018, some 97 buildings were lost. This represented over 206,125 square ft. of historical commercial space lost.