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University of Kentucky students work to preserve the historic free town of Huntertown

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Posted at 6:32 PM, Jan 28, 2022

HUNTERTOWN, Ky. (LEX 18) — Huntertown, located on the edge of Woodford County, was created just after the civil war as a community for freed slaves. Now, more than 150 years later the town's history is being preserved by a class at the University of Kentucky.

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Huntertown in Woodford County holds more than 150 years of history. After the Civil War, in 1871, this community was a free town for African Americans. Residents lived here as late as the early 2000s.

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University of Kentucky Associate Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture, Dr. Jayoung Koo, says, "Over the years the site has experienced some environmental challenges and limitations. Often it was flooded locally."

With around $50,000 in grant funding to spend, this land has been reopened as a park -- an environmental and historical preservation project taken on by the University of Kentucky’s department of landscape architecture students.

Third-year student Zoe Sermersheim says, "The goal was to enhance the history of Huntertown. It was taken apart, and all that was left was some reminisce of the buildings and some artifacts. So, what we wanted to do was actually create an educational experience as well as an enhancement of the site.”

U.K. leaders say there aren't that many free towns in this area that have been preserved like this one. At its peak, as many as 200 residents lived in this community and now former residents and descendants can come back to this space and remember their history.

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"We wanted to create that educational experience to bring people into the site and create it like,...make it an area where people would want to keep returning and keep being educated,” says Sermersheim.

U.K. leaders say the design studio students got to engage with partners, hear community voices and understand what can be visualized from a landscape architecture point of view.

"We want to help the community share that story and narrative with anyone who will be visiting it in the future,” says Dr. Koo.

The park is now open to the public for visits, but more additions are in the works. Additions like preventative flooding measures, historical research signage, and stories are set to be added to the park in summer of this year.