Each spring rain reminds me of what might have been in the area of campus where the new student center is nearly complete. The University of Kentucky almost had an attractive body of water and green space that would have become an iconic feature of the campus.
At the June 4, 1890 meeting of the Board of Trustees, Major P. P. Johnston offered the following resolution regarding a low area on the north side of the campus extending from the corner of Winslow (Euclid) and Limestone east to Rose Street that filled with water after heavy rains:
"Resolved that it is the sense of this Board that the depression in our ground next [to] the city be converted into a lake suitable for boating, bating, and fishing and that the chair appoint a committee with full authority to execute the work, said committee to confer with and secure the cooperation of the authorities of the city [to] promote persons interested in the improvement and if possible induce them to bear a portion of the expense. The Committee is authorized to expend on behalf of the College in this work such sums as the Executive Committee may prudently allow."
Major Johnston, a Virginia native and confederate veteran, practiced law, farmed and bred horses, and was active in Democratic state and local politics.
Apparently no real improvements were made to the body of water following Major Johnston's resolution. By 1927, Alfred P. Robertson writing in the March 25, 1927 Kentucky Kernel, called once again for improvements to the "lakelet." Citing the annual spring flooding of the area of campus he suggested facetiously that UK form a rowing team adding that, "Kentucky might not care for rowing. Probably not. It is a great deal of work." Moreover, he envisioned a body of water that could provide a romantic setting for evening gondola rides.
Eventually, the university drained the water after encouragement from the city due to it being a health hazard. A new gymnasium rose on the location in 1924. Apparently all of the water issues had not been resolved as the gym flooded in 1928 and again in 1936. By the time a new student center opened next to the gym in 1938, an improved storm sewer seemed to alleviate any further major flooding.
|Alumni Gym Flood 1928|
|Alumni Gym Flood 1936|
Today's UK students have witnessed the construction of a new student center that incorporates Alumni Gymnasium and the original 1938 student union building. Even though the lake is gone, the new student center promises to provide many amenities wanted and needed by today college students and will prove to be a wonderful addition to the UK campus.
Congratulations to everyone involved in making the new student center a reality. Now, if we could only have a lake beside it!