A Planned Community at Columbus, KY

Last summer on the American Queen cruise where I was a musician, we stopped and tied up at Columbus, Kentucky, and took a tour of the Civil War-era state park. That town of Columbus had been a traditional town, with a straight grid of streets, and had been fortified by the Confederacy in the hopes of disrupting shipping on the Mississippi River. Ulysses S. Grant had captured it quickly, moving down from his base in Cairo, Illinois, one of his first great successes of the war. But that Columbus, Kentucky perished forever in the infamous flood of 1927, and the very site of it is now in the middle of the current river. In the wake of the disaster, the American Red Cross decided that the original town could not be salvaged. Instead, they hired an urban planner in Indianapolis to plan a new Columbus, Kentucky, which he did, according to the established planning of the day, with long curved streets and a large central parkway that was named for Herbert Hoover, since he had supervised the relief effort at Columbus. Some houses and buildings were salvaged from the old town and moved to the new site, but despite the new town plan on higher ground, a majority of the residents seem to have left the area altogether, and the new town was much smaller than the one it had replaced. Unless one were to look at a map, it would be easy to visit the new Columbus and never notice that it had been a planned development. Yet on a map, the modernistic design can be easily seen, even though the lack of buildings and residents make it look incomplete.