Crawfish Bottom

Crawfish Bottom: Recovering a Lost Kentucky Community

Douglas A. Boyd
Foreword by W. Fitzhugh Brundage
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Crawfish Bottom
    Book Description:

    A small neighborhood in northern Frankfort, Kentucky, Crawfish Bottom was located on fifty acres of swampy land along the Kentucky River. "Craw's" reputation for vice, violence, moral corruption, and unsanitary conditions made it a target for urban renewal projects that replaced the neighborhood with the city's Capital Plaza in the mid-1960s.

    Douglas A. Boyd's Crawfish Bottom: Recovering a Lost Kentucky Community traces the evolution of the controversial community that ultimately saw four-hundred families displaced. Using oral histories and firsthand memories, Boyd not only provides a record of a vanished neighborhood and its culture but also demonstrates how this type of study enhances the historical record. A former Frankfort police officer describes Craw's residents as a "rough class of people, who didn't mind killing or being killed." In Crawfish Bottom, the former residents of Craw acknowledge the popular misconceptions about their community but offer a richer and more balanced view of the past.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3409-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Series Editors’ Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    James C. Klotter and Terry L. Birdwhistell

    In the field of oral history, Kentucky is a national leader. Over the past several decades, tens of thousands of its citizens have been interviewed. The Kentucky Remembered series brings into print the most important of those collections, with each volume focusing on a particular subject.

    Oral history is, of course, only one type of source material. Yet by the very personal nature of recollection, hidden aspects of history are often disclosed. Oral sources provide a vital thread in the rich fabric that is Kentucky history.

    Crawfish Bottom: Recovering a Lost Kentucky Community,the tenth volume in the series, focuses...

  5. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    W. Fitzhugh Brundage

    Scholars, writers, and poets have spilt gallons of ink musing about the “sense of place” that pervades the American South. This southern sense of place, alas, is more often asserted than demonstrated. A skeptic might point out that the people of Maine, New Mexico, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and every other region in the United States purportedly also have powerful attachments to place. So when we refer to a southern sense of place, what exactly do we have in mind? What distinguishes southerners’ attachment to their place?

    For many commentators, a sense of place is virtually innate and seemingly essential, as though...

  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. Introduction: Reputation as History
    (pp. 1-14)

    Craw was a small neighborhood in North Frankfort, Kentucky, located on fifty acres of swampy land along the Kentucky River. Outsiders traditionally viewed Craw as the “bad” part of town, based on a long list of deeply embedded historical associations: violence, poverty, corruption, dirt, saloons, pool halls, whiskey, cockfights, disease, murders, gambling, bootlegging, prostitution, slums, and crime. This perception emerged in the decades following the Civil War and stigmatized Craw and its residents accordingly, until the neighborhood’s destruction at the hand of urban renewal in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Even following the “slum clearance,” Craw’s reputation was...

  8. Chapter One The “Lower” Part of the City
    (pp. 15-54)

    Very few documentary records exist that allow us to interpret the earliest periods of the neighborhood known as “Craw” or “the Bottom,” the poorest section of Frankfort. However, existing sources suggest that from its inception Craw captured and sustained the Frankfort public’s fascination. Few academic historians have written about Craw, and those who have rarely expand beyond brief, tangential references, and primary sources are rare. The relatively few existing newspaper accounts that reference Craw mostly chronicle crime, violence, flooding, rampant alcohol use, and poverty. Nevertheless, this small corpus of early newspaper references and articles contains crucial sources for setting up...

  9. Chapter Two Defining Craw
    (pp. 55-78)

    During the mid-1870s, the streets and alleys of the northwest corner of the city of Frankfort began to differentiate into a neighborhood, a community of people with a distinct sense of place. Its emerging identity exceeded its reputation in the minds of local citizens—this place had a name of its own, used by insiders and outsiders alike. What the newspapers had once called “the lower part of the city” had many names during its brief history: “the Craw,” “Craw,” “Crawfish Bottom,” “Crawdad Bottom,” “the Bottom,” or just “Bottom.” Although the neighborhood never had official civic boundaries and was never...

  10. Chapter Three Contesting Public Memory
    (pp. 79-110)

    Neighborhood borders are but one component in the complex construction of individual perceptions of community identity. The expression of neighborhood borders within the oral history interview frames distinct spatial identities, but the construction of place includes much more than the act of drawing borders. Following his inquiry into the understanding of neighborhood boundaries and spatial identities, Jim Wallace progressed into the realm of meaning as he investigated various aspects of the genius loci. In the narrative reconstruction of a sense of place, the interviewer poses questions in order to gain insight into the informant’s system of encoded signs and symbols...

  11. Chapter Four The Other Side of the Tracks
    (pp. 111-144)

    Although Jim Wallace originally conducted his oral history project to fulfill course requirements in graduate school, the timing of the project, the deposit of his materials into the archives at the Kentucky Historical Society, and the repeated public presentation of his research findings have, over several years, combined to play a significant role in organizing community symbols that counter dominant perceptions, representing a new version of the neighborhood in public memory. Wallace often framed interview questions, even entire interviews, in opposition to the deeply ingrained public perception of Craw as a violent, criminal place.

    Several decades prior to Wallace’s project,...

  12. Chapter Five The King of Craw
    (pp. 145-182)

    Several individuals emerged from the oral history interviews to personify various aspects of the neighborhood’s numerous identities. No other individual represented both outsiders’ and former residents’ memories of the neighborhood more comprehensively than the legendary John Fallis, crowned the “King of Craw.” His obituary, appearing in theLouisville Courier-Journaltwo days following his death, describes his alleged killing at the hand of Everett Rigsby and then continues: “That is what Everett Rigsby did to John Fallis, Frankfort’s ‘bad man,’ at a craps game in Gas House Alley, main thoroughfare of the once famous ‘Craw.’ Over this region, a voting precinct,...

  13. Conclusion: Remembering Craw
    (pp. 183-188)

    The Craw is gone, as are most of its longtime residents. Surface assumptions would suggest that individuals “remember” only the span of their own lives, a common perception of the nature and constraints of human memory and thus of oral history. However, this vague perception ignores the crucial role of traditional, or public, memory in the process of constructing individual and collective historical identities. The subjects of many of the narratives of Craw existing in contemporary historical consciousness extend well beyond the temporal limits of the tellers’ own lifetimes. John Fallis, the legendary “King of Craw,” was killed in 1929....

  14. Notes
    (pp. 189-204)
  15. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 205-212)
  16. Index
    (pp. 213-220)