Photographic history of Danville lets images tell the story
August 4, 2011 By Laura Coleman Pritchard
"Images of America: Danville," features antique photographs of
Centre, including this shot of Old Centre from 1915.
“The book is a collection of roughly 180 images of Danville’s
history," says Merritt, "from its founding in 1784 up through the
present day.” Above is an 1875 view of Danville's Main Street.
Danville, the City of Firsts, now boasts another.
“Images of America: Danville,” by Danville resident and historian Lindsay Merritt, tells the story of the city’s firsts, including Centre College and the Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD). It also features local color, including photographs of churches, restaurants and town celebrities.
“The book is a collection of roughly 180 images of Danville’s history, from its founding in 1784 up through the present day,” Merritt says. “It features photographs of Centre, KSD, the McDowell House Museum, Constitution Square, Main Street businesses, churches and familiar faces.”
An entire section of the book is dedicated to Centre College’s history, along with segments about the histories of other schools in Danville.
“For the Centre section, I included a lot about how campus has evolved from its earliest days — buildings being torn down, rebuilt, expanded and re-purposed,” Merritt says. “I also tried to include some more personal touches, like sports teams, Carnival and the historic 1921 football win over Harvard.”
In fact, Merritt counts the school histories among her most interesting research for the project.
“I found the school history section, which features Centre, KSD and the Kentucky College for Women (KCW), to be fascinating, particularly how they intertwined — Centre students teaching at KSD, how KCW merged with Centre,” she said. “I loved finding out how KSD catered to its deaf students with buses that had inward-facing seats, so students could sign to each other.”
She adds that an element of the odd and idiosyncratic was a close second favorite research topic.
“Since I love creepy stories, I really enjoyed finding out about the creation of Lake Herrington,” she muses. “There was once an old mill and a 175-foot covered bridge over the Dix River, and when the Dix was dammed in 1925 to create Lake Herrington, the mill and bridge were covered by the rising water. There is speculation that the mill and bridge are perfectly preserved underwater now, because fresh water wouldn’t deteriorate them as quickly as salt water might.”
Clarence Wyatt, Centre College professor of history and special assistant to the president, co-wrote the book’s forward.
“I was looking for a locally famous person to write a foreword for the book, and Clarence and Carol Senn offered to write a joint one,” Merritt said.
“Danville is one of Kentucky's most historic and picturesque towns. Lindsay Merritt has done a masterful job of chronicling that history,” says Wyatt. “Just as important, she has reminded everyone who cares about Danville's future that the vitality of this community, and small towns everywhere, requires vision, dedication and hard work."
Merritt has a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in public history and has worked in museums across the region. She lives in Danville with her fiancé, Tyler Chelf ’05, and her two dogs, Henry and Flapjack.
“Images of America: Danville” goes on sale on August 8, and is available for purchase at www.arcadiapublishing.com by searching for zip code 40422. Copies are also available on Amazon.com, at the Centre College bookstore, the McDowell House Museum or the gift shop in Danville’s historic Constitution Square.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 24th among all the nation's colleges and universities and has named Centre No. 1 among all institutions of higher education in the South for two years in a row. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, click here.