Naturalization Tree Marker at Camp Zachary Taylor is Moved to New Home

Old and New Monument Location-2

To very little fanfare, the Naturalization Tree Monument at Camp Zachary Taylor, was relocated to it’s new home in Camp Zachary Taylor Park the week of June 15th, 2015. This great achievement is a long time coming. This only original marker from the era of WW1 is now available for all to see.
The limestone Monument was erected in 1921, the year the camp was closed, by the Daughters of the American Revolution, to mark the spot where the tree was standing. The Magnificent Elm Tree stood for many more years, but died after being struck by lightning. The Memorial was protected by deed restrictions, but following the closing of the VFW Post, who was the caretaker, the small plot of land was sold off. The Monument ended up in the back yard of the property owner along Lee Street, where it was fenced in for several years.
Now it, along with a planned Flagstaff and Historical Plaque will soon accompany it in Camp Taylor Park. The Historical Plaque will give details about the tree, it’s role in the US Army during World War 1, and will feature photographs of it. A re-dedication ceremony is planned for this fall. I will post updates as they become available. Thanks to all who helped this happen, especially Metro Councilman Steve Magre.

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The Naturalization Tree circa 1925

June 11, 2015 – The 98th Anniversary of the announcement to build Camp Zachary Taylor

Work Begun 6-23-17

June 11, 2015, marks the 98th anniversary of the announcement that Louisville KY was selected as one of the sixteen cities in America, where the US Army would build a Army Training Cantonment at the onset of World War 1. The City of Louisville had been competing with six other cities in the region to win the contract for a camp that would be located in the Mid-West.

The other competing locations were: Evansville IN., Fort Wayne IN, Indianapolis IN., Jeffersonville IN., Bowling Green KY. and Lexington KY.

Louisville was selected over the other sites for several reasons.
1.) Nearly 4000 acres of undeveloped land was available within a six mile radius of the City.
2.) It was more centrally located (geographically).
3.) It had a better railway system with access to all north to south and east to west lines.
4.) It had a never diminishing water supply.
5.) It was the only City that offered a 5 cent street car line.
6.) It was only one of three cities that had a sanitary sewer system.
7.) It was only one of three cities that would have a rifle range available.
8.) It was the only city that could offer all of the prime requisites.
9.) No other city could provide an equal or better offer.
10.) The City of Louisville guaranteed to give the camp “An Atmosphere of Patriotism, Efficiency and Morality”.

In closing, the selection committee made this statement. ” It’s selection will be best the US Army. the Nation and Best For The Boys.”

This decision put into motion the largest single construction project in Louisville’s history. The camp would house an entire Division of men numbering 47,000, and cost over $7.2 million to construct (approx 200 million in today’s currency).

The construction firm of Mason and Hanger from Lexington KY was selected as the general contractor. Within three days of Louisville being selected, representatives of Mason and Hanger were in Washington to meet with the War Department to discuss the project. The plans were drawn on the train while they were in transit for the meeting.

Material was purchased and delivered to the site the following week by rail car and the first building was started on June 21st. 1917, exactly 10 days after the decision was made to build the camp in Louisville.

Construction continued at a blinding pace. 1787 buildings were built between June 21st and August 28th (when the project was considered to be substantially complete), or 69 calendar days. This also includes 16.3 miles of new roads, 30.8 miles of new sewer lines, 38.7 miles of new water lines, all new electric and telegraph lines, extension of the street car line into the camp, and 6.75 miles of railroad track and spurs.

The photo above was taken three days after construction began. Four (200 man) barracks were under roof and five other buildings were well underway 72 hours after they drove the first nail.The pace increased each day until a 60′ x 200′ two story barrack could be built and under roof in just 1 1/2 hours.

The construction crew numbered in the thousands, with the maximum number of workers peaking on August 19th, 1917, at 10,000 employees. The largest trade employed were the carpenters at 4280 men. Next were the Laborers at 3490 employed then electricians and plumbers at 942. The balance were miscellaneous trades such as truck drivers and water boys. The highest paid employees were the Carpentry Foremen and .75 cents per hour down to the Messenger’s and Water Boys at .15 cents per hour.

The construction of the camp by Mason and Hanger was completed on November 23rd, and officially turned over to the US Army on December 1, 1917. The first troops arrived on September 8th, 1917, and occupied the buildings while the finishing touches were being completed by the contractor.

The camp stayed open for three years until the US Army announced on July 20, 1920, that Camp Zachary Taylor would be closed, which was almost three years to the day when the first building was begun. The camp officially closed for good September 1, 1920. All of the land was sold off at auction the next year, along with a few of the buildings. Some of the original land owners bought back the land they sold to the army just three years earlier for a fraction of what they were paid for it. Of the 7 million dollars spent to build the camp, the army only recouped a little over 1 million at auction.

Copyright 2015, Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society, Louisville KY.

May 7, 2015 – The 100th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Lusitania

The Sinking of the Lusitania, May 7, 1915

The Lusitania was built in 1903, and made her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York in September 1907. She was the fastest liner afloat. The engines produced 68,000-horse power at a speed over 25 knots. The Lusitania was known as the “Greyhound of the Seas” and she soon captured the record for the fastest Atlantic crossing.

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, The United States originally pursued a policy of Isolationism. President Wilson was avoiding conflict while trying to broker a peace. This resulted in increased tensions with Berlin and London. When a German U-boat sank the British liner Lusitania in 1915, with 128 Americans aboard, U.S. President Wilson vowed, “America was too proud to fight” and demanded an end to attacks on passenger ships. Germany complied.
On May 1, 1915, the ship departed New York City bound for Liverpool. Unknown to her passengers but probably no secret to the Germans, almost all her hidden cargo consisted of munitions and contraband destined for the British war effort. As the fastest ship afloat, the luxurious liner felt secure in the belief she could easily outdistance any submarine.
On May 7, the ship neared the coast of Ireland. At 2:10 in the afternoon a torpedo fired by the German submarine U 20 slammed into her side. A mysterious second explosion ripped the liner apart. The ship listed so badly and quickly that lifeboats crashed into passengers crowded on deck, or dumped their loads into the water. Most passengers never had a chance. Within 18 minutes the giant ship slipped beneath the sea. One thousand one hundred nineteen of the 1,924 aboard died. The dead included 114 Americans.
Lusitania

Former Camp Zachary Taylor’s Commandant’s House Is Up for Sale, and Now at Risk of Demolition

Gen Hale

General Harry C. Hale, Commander of Camp Zachary Taylor and the 84th Division, which was organized in August 1917 at Camp Zachary Taylor, where men from Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois were sent for basic training at the onset of the United States entering World War 1. General Hale was in service in China in 1917, and was called back to the United States when the camps were near completion in September of that year, and to take command of Camp Zachary Taylor. He was a famous Indian Fighter in the “Bad Lands” of South Dakota in the 1880’s and was famous for single handily capturing “Sitting Bulls” warriors, where he brought them back to the reservation.

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General Hale took possession of this farm house for his residence while Commander of the camp. It was located directly across the street from the “Head Quarters” buildings, which were built along Taylor Ave. on the west side of Poplar Level Road.

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The residence, which is at 4211 Poplar Level Road, is being offered for sale as a commercial site. The front half of the property is zoned C1 (commercial), while the back half is zoned R5 (residential). The listing Realtor suggests that the lot could be used for a “Convenience Store” or “Car Wash”. This clearly indicates that the intent would be to tear down the Historic Building and construct a modern store front property for retail use.

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The house seen in this 1917 photograph, was built in 1911, and was the home of Alphonse Schoenbachler. He owned the house and 95 acres of land that stretched from Poplar Level Road (east) to Newburg Road. He sold his land, as well did hundreds of other patriotic Louisvillian’s, for the war cause. The house has been a residence for 103 years, but now faces the possibility of being demolished. It is the very last one of these Original Farm Houses, that stood along Poplar Level Road before Camp Zachary Taylor was constructed.

Other Historic Homes that we have since lost due to the construction of Camp Taylor, or after it was dismantled are:

The “Basil Prather” homestead, which was located on top of Quarry Hill. It was built in 1797, and survived until after WW1, only to be demolished for a subdivision.

We lost the George Rogers Clark Homestead in 1917, which was torn down when Camp Taylor was under construction. It is considered to be “The Most Significant Loss” of a Historical Structure in Louisville’s history.

Clark Homestead-A

We also lost the home of Leo Schimeider. The Schneider’s 28 acre Estate was at the corner of Poplar Level and Hess Lane (NW Corner). It was bulldozed after the camp was sold and the land subdivided. The house was taking up too much land, and they could build three new homes where it stood. It is pictured below when it was sold in 1921 and demolished shortly thereafter.

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The destruction of these significant buildings, that make up our Local History, needs to come to a stop. The almighty dollar cannot, and will not, ever replace the importance of our Iconic and Historic Landmarks. The photographs will never replace the buildings that make up the History of Our Neighborhoods. Please write to Metro Councilman, Jim King and our Representative Jim Wayne, and let them know that we need to protect this Historic Building.

Happy 97th Birthday to Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville, Kentucky.

Opening Day-A front

97 Years Ago, November 3rd, 1917, Camp Zachary Taylor conducted their official opening day celebration. Approximately 40 thousand soldiers and thousands of civilians attended the event on the very clear and mild fall day. It was attended by politicians and military officers from the camp and Washington DC. You can read more details about the events of that day on the link above, “97th Anniversary – Nov. 3, 2014″.

200 Years on the Ohio Exhibit

I will be presenting a two (2) day exhibit at “Riverside, The Farnsley-Moremen Landing” in southern Jefferson County. Their event “200 Years on The Ohio” will be on September 20-21, 2014. I will be displaying some of our items from the collection, several photographs and a couple of maps. Information about the event can be found on the “Events” tab and here:

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“Louisville and The Great War” Exhibit a Success!

Our Exhibit “Louisville and The Great War” was a big success! I want to thank everyone who came to visit the Conrad Caldwell House Museum and especially those who made the extra effort to come for the exhibit. We had four fantastic lectures during the five months the exhibit was open, and attendance to those was very good. 100% of the proceeds from the exhibit, lectures and movie screenings went to help fund the Conrad Caldwell House. Many thanks to everyone. Hopefully we will have a permanent home in the near future. Here are more pictures from the exhibit if you were not able to attend.ÐHä

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Our Final Special Event Lecture Notable People at CZT

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Our fourth and final special event in our Lecture Series will take place on June 1st, 2014 at 4:00 pm at the Conrad Caldwell House Museum, 1402 St. James Court. The topic will be “Notable People at Camp Zachary Taylor”. I will be talking about individuals who were part of Camp Zachary Taylor when it existed and their contributions to their country and others.

There were important individuals who were responsible for Camp Zachary Taylor being built in Louisville, Important Leaders who made it possible for the US to win both World Wars, Educators who improved the lives they touched and Entertainers who were pioneers in film and stage that made life for the soldiers a little more tolerable.

I hope to see you there. Admission is $5, and all of the proceeds go to help support the Conrad Caldwell House Museum.