Editor's note: This story was updated at 9:52 a.m. on Sept. 13 to correct that Elizabeth Minor was born prior to the Civil War.
Susan Goddard was at home earlier this summer when she heard a loud crash behind her farm on Duncan Road. She looked outside to see a giant plume of dust billow above the distant tree line.
It was a galvanizing moment for Goddard in a string of events that goes back more than two decades and involves the destruction of a historic house, a slave’s lost tombstone and a small community’s struggle against encroaching industrialism.
In 1995, the then-Frankfort Planning and Zoning commission — now called Planning and Community Development — approved the construction of an industrial park in the pastoral area off Versailles Road near Interstate 64. Goddard and her neighbors were skeptical of the project’s impact, but the commission assured them it wouldn't negatively affect the area.
“The main entrance was going to be U.S. 60 (Versailles Road), it was going to have an overflow onto Duncan Road, and all the new buildings were going to face Millville Road,” Goddard recalled.
She was concerned that water runoff from the new facilities might affect a protected stream that could cause more flooding in Millville, just down the hill from the Goddard farm. The planning commission assured her there wasn’t a concern and that berms would be installed to block excess water. It also offered to provide natural gas lines and better water pressure to all residents.
“This is not the way it happened,” Goddard says nearly a quarter-century later.
When the new buildings went up, they all faced in the opposite direction. Upset, Goddard went to then-City Planner Vicki Sewell, who told her that once the lots were sold there was nothing Frankfort Planning and Zoning could do because the area was along a U.S. highway. Sewell apologized, confessing that the commission did not have an enforcement arm for the project and that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet now had purview over it.
“The neighbors left that night thinking this is the way we’re going to have it,” Goddard said. “But everything they said they were going to do, and put in protections for the neighbors, they’re not doing.”
Years passed and more commercial buildings sprang up. Today, the area is an industrial park populated with factories, government offices and a Cracker Barrel restaurant. Goddard claims that the growth over the past two decades has marred the once-bucolic community’s tranquil character, and resulted in noise pollution, destructive water runoff and dangerous traffic patterns.
“It’s kind of like running the gauntlet now as you drive down through there because everybody has outlets out onto the road,” she said.
Several years ago, Goddard was walking around neighbor Julie McDonald’s farm, which borders her own land. She discovered a weathered tombstone near a gnarled old tree. The inscription said it belonged to “Elizabeth Minor, faithful family servant of Richard Crutcher.” Minor died Dec. 12, 1875, at age 70.
Goddard learned that Minor was born prior the Civil War as a slave and died a free woman, but stayed on the Crutcher farm, perhaps to help raise the family’s children. The tombstone had apparently been moved, so the actual location of Minor’s grave was unclear.
Goddard, a passionate historic preservationist, was concerned about Minor’s grave and the tombstone’s condition.
“If we ever find her family, we’d want to let them visit her grave or reinter her somewhere,” said Goddard.
She offered to buy the tombstone from McDonald, but the deal never happened. Eventually, McDonald moved the tombstone inside the 223-year-old Crutcher house, a stately but dilapidated mansion on her property. She hoped placing it there would protect it from the elements.
This summer, McDonald sold her farm — 95 acres of which are in Franklin County and 7 acres across the county line in Woodford — to Winchester developer Ron Tierney, who swiftly set about constructing warehouse buildings to rent or sell. Determined to clear his newly purchased land to make room for more structures, bulldozers demolished the old Crutcher house. That’s when Goddard heard the loud crash of the collapsing house this summer.
“It was almost like the house screamed,” Goddard said. “The nails and the wood and everything coming down, smoke and dust and particles.”
She was concerned that the structure might have released lead paint and asbestos into the air, affecting the nearby residents.
Beyond health concerns, she was heartbroken that the historic home, which was on the National Register of Historic Places, had been razed.
“You do not just go in and tear down a house that is one of the oldest in this town and this state,” said Goddard.
Tierney said he hasn’t received any complaints from neighbors about his use of the property.
“One neighbor called asking what we planned to do, and that’s about it,” he said. “A lot of people are working in this industrial park over the last 12-14 years and we hope we can continue to do that.”
Although Tierney, as the property owner, had a legal right to destroy the house, Goddard said that he failed to obtain a demolition permit from Franklin County Planning, Zoning and Building Code Enforcement — a claim that was confirmed by Robert Hewitt, the county director.
“Are we just tearing down our history for the sake of putting more warehousing in?” Goddard asked.
Goddard recently held a community gathering in her home to discuss the matter. She said the purpose is to raise awareness that planning and zoning processes are not quite what they seem to the public.
Goddard hopes a major impact study regarding how all these recent developments are affecting her neighbors will be performed. She also plans to have residents and other interested parties sign a petition to keep the local land classified as agriculture as opposed to industry or employment.