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Crawfish Bottom

Recovering a Lost Kentucky Community

Douglas A. Boyd

Publication Year: 2011

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.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: Kentucky Remembered: An Oral History Series

Front cover

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p. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Series Editors' Foreword

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p. xi

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. ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

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, ...

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pp. xv-xvi

I would like to thank several individuals for their guidance and assistance in creating this book. First and foremost, this book would not have been possible without Jim Wallace and those community members who were willing to be interviewed for the project to share their important stories. ...

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Introduction: Reputation as History

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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, ...

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1. The "Lower" Part of the City

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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. ...

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2. Defining Craw

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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. ...

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3. Contesting Public Memory

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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. ...

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4. The Other Side of the Tracks

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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, ...

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5. The King of Craw

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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.” ...

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Conclusion: Remembering Craw

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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 ...


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pp. 189-204

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 205-212


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pp. 213-220

E-ISBN-13: 9780813134093
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813134086

Page Count: 236
Illustrations: 45 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Kentucky Remembered: An Oral History Series
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OCLC Number: 781438527
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Crawfish Bottom

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Community life -- Kentucky -- Frankfort -- History.
  • Crawfish Bottom (Frankfort, Ky.) -- Biography.
  • Oral history -- Kentucky -- Frankfort.
  • Frankfort (Ky.) -- History.
  • Frankfort (Ky.) -- Social life and customs.
  • Frankfort (Ky.) -- Biography.
  • Crawfish Bottom (Frankfort, Ky.) -- Social life and customs.
  • Crawfish Bottom (Frankfort, Ky.) -- History.
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