James T. Graham describes the neighborhood from the resident’s perspective. Interview conducted by James E. Wallace, May 21, 1991, Kentucky Oral History Commission, Kentucky Historical Society, Frankfort, KY.
1865-1870: Several African Americans settle in North Frankfort, known by most as the “lower part of the city.”
1870-1880: Between 1870 and 1880, the black population rose from 2,335 to 3,199.
1877-1880: The name “Crawfish Bottom” begins to emerge as references in newspapers. Later shortened to “Craw.”
1880: Flood threatens residents of Craw.
1883: Flood devastates neighborhood
1891: Dr. Underwood establishes medical practice in the neighborhood
1909: Riot in Craw between Soldiers and residents.
1912: Prostitution in Craw captures attention of Federal Government.
1913: Prostitutes are relegated to Gas House Alley forming an unofficial red-light district.
1920: 19th Amendment ratified (Prohibition)
1928: Mayo Underwood School built
1929: John Fallis, “King of Craw” is shot and killed.
1937: Flood devastates neighborhood
1955: League of Women Voters conducts study provoking slum clearance efforts.
1956: The 1956 “Structure and Family Survey” conducted by Scruggs and Hammond, a Lexington city planning firm
1958: City commences purchasing and clearing of properties making up the North Frankfort Urban Renewal Area.
Mid 1960s: Mayo Underwood School, American Legion Building, homes and churches are torn down. Residents are scattered throughout the city. Housing promised to residents falls far short of slum clearance promises.
Most news stories about the neighborhood between 1870 and 1930 tended to be about either crime, poverty, or the call for neighborhood reform. Rarely did the newspapers of Frankfort cover the close community that lived in the neighborhood. As the book examines, the newspapers and early historians had a great deal to do with the development of the neighborhood’s bad reputation. Here are a few of those headlines:
Most of the images for this book are housed in Special Collections at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort. Many images of the homes destroyed by Urban Renewal have been digitized and are online as part of the North Frankfort Urban Renewal Appraisal Collection.
Recent Events, News, Reviews and Appearances:
“Crawfish Bottom is a fascinating story well told. By combining narrative skills with sound theory and original methodology in his use of oral and archival sources, Boyd revives the memory and narrative of a community that was wiped out in the name of progress.”
—Alessandro Portelli, author of They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History
“Urban planners seldom listened to the communities they bulldozed, but oral history can recapture the historical memory of what has been lost. Crawfish Bottom provides a vivid and layered history of the colorful community that once existed on the banks of the Kentucky River, in the words of its inhabitants and in a critical analysis of their interviews.”
—Donald A. Ritchie, author of Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide
“This captivating book conveys a portrait of a community physically lost to urban renewal. As important, Crawfish Bottom contributes to our understanding of the nature of popular memory. Boyd goes beyond generalizations and uses the skills of the historian and folklorist to document the process by which community identity and self-understanding are created, challenged and reshaped in both past and present, and most interestingly by the very intervention of the oral historian. This book will be of great interest to all those interested in the nature and study of community.”
–Tracy K’Meyer, author of Civil Rights in the Gateway to the South: Louisville, Kentucky, 1945-1980