Main Street Makeover

La Grange Main Street Program
changes name, hires new director

Newly built train viewing tower goes up on Main Street

LA GRANGE, Ky. (August 2015) – The past few months have seen a lot of changes with Discover Downtown La Grange, starting with a name change. The Main Street Program now has a new director and several projects on the horizon.
The organization recently made the decision to switch back to its original name, La Grange Crossroads District. It is a nonprofit that is certified by the National Main Street Center and the Kentucky Heritage Council.

Photo by Helen McKinney

This new train viewing tower on East Main Street, La Grange, was designed by former Mayor Bill Lammlein.

At the time the original name was chosen, “It was a lot for people to understand,” said Karen Eldridge, recently named the new director for La Grange Crossroads. She replaced Nancy Griffith, who took a job with the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce.
“Now the state is encouraging us to take advantage of having ‘Main Street’ in our title,” Eldridge said. The national program is celebrating its 37th year in existence and the state’s 50 years.
“We want people to understand Main Street is not a location, it’s a state of mind,” Eldridge said. Crossroads was the original name of the town because it sat between Louisville and New Castle, and Westport and Shelbyville.
Eldridge has worked with the organization since 2003. “I have a passion for it,” she said. Her goal is to help preserve the town. What we have as a community, we need to try and save.” This includes preservation of buildings and encouraging citizens to shop close to home so the town can remain economically viable.
“I’ve learned something from all of the previous directors,” Eldridge said. She said she hopes to build on the compilation of all their hard work and bring new ideas and projects to light.
The most visible recent project La Grange Crossroads District has worked on is the train observation station that has been installed between the railroad tracks and in front of Main Street Bourbon and Ale House on East Main Street in downtown La Grange. The project was designed by former Mayor Bill Lammlein.

Karen Eldridge,
new director for La Grange Crossroads

The station has a platform that is 10x10 feet so observers can easily view the trains coming around the curve on their way to the new La Grange Railroad Museum, housed in the former train depot located at 412 E. Main St. The station straddles the sidewalk so visitors can walk under it, and it contains a wheelchair accessible ramp. Construction began in mid-June. 
Eldridge said the idea came about more than 12 years ago when a rail fan, Ed Brennan, who also worked for the Chamber of Commerce, suggested it. “So many people come here everyday and want to view the trains,” she said.
At the time, the University of Cincinnati had worked on the project, conducting studies on long-range missions for continued development in downtown areas. “They had a much larger plan in store, which included a bridge to go over the tracks,” Eldridge said.
The design committee decided now was the time to do something of this nature, she said. Funding came from money that had accumulated from different sponsorships and the city provided the manpower.
The train observation station still needs to be stained, plus handrails and a security gate added, and a radio installed so listeners can hear the train engineer talking when the train comes through town.
La Grange Crossroads District would like to produce a video and show it on a monitor on the tower. It would show “what it looks like when the train comes through La Grange,” said Eldridge.
“I think it’s a great addition to the community,” said Tom Clemons, who owns Main Street Bourbon and Ale House. The tower sits in front of his business beside the tracks. Clemons is also a board member for La Grange Crossroads District.
“It was initially going to be put in with photographers in mind,” he said. “Since then, we’ve discovered that people love taking their children and grandchildren on it to wave to engineers as they pass by.” A water fountain will be installed to the left side on a concrete platform that is wheelchair accessible.  
La Grange Crossroads District has been working on the Sidewalk Art Project, also. Certain spaces on sidewalks in downtown La Grange were selected for art paintings and will have a pre-painted background.
Interested participants submitted an application and a preliminary sketch or digital image of their intended idea. Twenty entries were submitted, and artists will be supplied with paint in the primary colors of black, white, red, yellow and blue to create heir artwork.
A unique twist to the project is that artists will be asked to hide a secret image within their art, possibly an animal or bird, plus their initials. Winners will be announced on Aug. 15 during Vintage Market on the Tracks. First through third place monetary prizes will be awarded.
Annual events sponsored by La Grange Crossroads include Blue Hydrangea Progressive Tea, Spirits of La Grange Ghost Tours, La Grange Railroad and Bluegrass Festival, Small Business Saturday and Light Up La Grange.

• For more information, contact La Grange Crossroads District at (502) 269-0126 or visit: www.LaGrangeCrossroads.org.

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