Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Donovan Lyle Aten, March 5, 2013

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:02:26 - Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area introduction

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Partial Transcript: --the design project probably took two or three years to evolve and to consummate before it went to construction. The National Forest Service and National Park Service people were very closely involved in all design steps--and so, it was a very involved project and very inclusive and complete as an approach to design.

Segment Synopsis: Lyle Aten introduces his work on the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. He describes it as a project wherein all parties were highly involved including the National Parks Service and the National Forest Service.

Keywords: Big South Fork; Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area; Bluegrass; Kentucky; Landscape architecture; Landscape design; Lyle Aten; National Forest Service; National Parks

GPS: Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area
Map Coordinates: 36.53457540000001, -84.66523099999999
00:03:37 - History of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

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Partial Transcript: The History of it is that it was a coal mine. It had--the coal company had created a village nearby the entry from the coal mine. The village was in the valley and the coal mine was up on the side of the mountain and there was a tipple that went across through the river that went between the coal mine and the railroad.

Segment Synopsis: Aten describes the history of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area as a mine site and village. He talks about the development of the land and the preservation of its history through ghost structures and figures. Aten emphasizes the experience of the ghost structures and surrounding nature of the site. He also explains how the village and mine, Blue Heron, functioned as a community. Blue Heron was fairly self sufficient and sustaining, Aten describes the community as "captive", as in lacking communication with the outside world, with it's most vital feature being its only access point to the main road. The recreation of the village, as Aten describes, needed to be on stilts in order to protect them from the erratic flooding from the river.

Keywords: Big South Fork; Blue Heron; Coal-mining machinery; Ghost structures; Kentucky; Landscape architecture; Landscape design; Lyle Aten; National Forest Service; National Parks; Villages

00:17:50 - Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area roads and access

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Partial Transcript: In order to make this a viable historical feature--was to provide modern day access to the site.

Segment Synopsis: Aten briefly describes the challenges of the site in terms of access and making it available for public use. He emphasizes, again, the seclusion of the site itself and how its development required the enhancing of its circulation for visitors.

Keywords: Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area; Coal-mining machinery; Kentucky; Landscape architecture; Landscape design; Lyle Aten; National Forest Service; National Parks; Stearns

00:19:58 - Awards for Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

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Partial Transcript: It was amazing how many people road the train on Christmas--or Christmas week--just to go out there and see it.

Segment Synopsis: Aten talks about receiving an Honor Award from the Army Corps of Engineers and a Federal Design Achievement Award by the National Endowment of the Arts. He describes his feelings about the greater impacts of his designs. Aten emphasizes how the effort of many different entities that went into developing the design of the site. He also goes into specific details of the award process from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Keywords: Army Corps of Engineers; Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area; Federal Design Achievement Award; Kentucky; Landscape architecture; Landscape design; Lexington (Ky.); Lyle Aten; National Endowment of the Arts; National Forest Service; National Parks; United States. Army. Corps of Engineers--Civil Functions

00:26:08 - Horse farm development in the Bluegrass (Buckram Oak, Donamire, Northpoint)

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Partial Transcript: It was just a situation where we happened to be at the right place at the right time. For whatever economic reasons, either in our country or in other countries, the horse industry blossomed. And in Kentucky--many of the tobacco farms were undergoing changes to be turned into horse farms.

Segment Synopsis: Aten goes into detail about each horse farm (Buckram Oak, Donamire, Northpoint), how and who it was acquired by, the history of the farm and the development of the farm itself. He describes the process of re-grading the previous tobacco farms and the re-fencing for the new horse farm. He says the barns for the horse farms were built in regards to airflow and contained materials (cherry and walnut finished) that were previously uncommon for central Kentucky barns.

Keywords: Barns; Bluegrass Region (Ky.); Buckram Oak; Donamire; Farm Buildings--Design and Construction; Fences; Horse Farm Development; Horse Farms; Kentucky; Landscape Design; Landscape architecture; Lexington (Ky.); Lyle Aten; Northpoint; Scruggs and Hammond; Tobacco farms