Louisville and 1629 Cowling

I grew up half a block(on left)


from where my father did (on right, on Bonnycastle) , in the Highland (above the Ohio River floods) neighborhood of Louisville KY.

It was upper middle class, and the only black family I ever saw there lived in a ratty little house behind the apartment across the street that fronted on an alley (Louisville is famous for its wonderful alleys). Red arrow, much better condition now than then..when it really was something of a hovel


A half a block further up the street was the old Bonnycastle Big House, the original center of the slave-owning estate (whence came the name of the street Dad grew up on).  Hardly more than a mini-mansion these days, it had only two columns before the front door.  There was a central hall and simple if wide staircase that gave entry onto rooms on both sides. The revelation (if you knew what to look for) was the back entry to the central hallway, an uncovered porch, wide, shallow with a few wide steps.  The property has been repurposed many times, as a girls' day school (I have movies of a May Day celebration there when my long gone aunt, danced with flowers at her graduation), as a synagogue, as an evangelical church. The original Big House, has been tacked onto and is now surrounded by later buildings, picture on the left...


but in the picture on right, you can still see the back porch at the end of  of a little driveway...now overshadowed by buildout over it.  The point of all this is this: Above the back porch on the wall were bells on haircurler springs, on the house wall were grommets.  There was a bell for each slave and to get George or Anna, someone on the other side of the door to the porch would pull the rope for that slave.  Wouldn't open the door and call for George (much less say please :(), just pull the rope and thus depersonalize the slave. This was turning people into objects; it's a wonder they even had names.  So, they sat out in the clement and inclement weather waiting for their bell to ring so they could run in, and bow and say Yes Massa and What do you want, Massa. It wasn't like some Victorian house where a pull rang a bell maybe 500' away in the kitchen (I've seen them in Pennsylvania), here the slave master or mistress stood 5' away and summoned the slave.  When I was in Louisville maybe 25 years ago, you could still see all that. 
My parents, who had no particular use for religion, nevertheless wanted me to see the elephant.  And so, I want to UU Sunday school, my grangdmother's Presbyterian Sunday church and even for a while, Bar Mitzvah school up the street at that synagogue. Eventually, the property passed to an evangelical church; I wasn't :) sent there.  Through it all the bells remained, mute nauseated testimony to the everyday horror of slavery....if you knew what to look.  I always looked.

Yes: in the South, the past isn't dead, often it isn't even past

The slave quarters still exist....and ironically is a much more interesting (looks like something Frank Llyod Wright might have done )and beautifully sited house;. its looks have been spoiled by additions and makeovers.


The shaded hill rolled down 75' to a spring which trickled out of a grotto into a beautiful shallow pool with a stone flagged edge...and then a very little waterfall and the nice stone lined stream (with crayfish for me as a kid to hunt!)...altogether a so much more interesting place than the Big House.