George Washington has been a favorite given name for boys nationwide down through the years. One such person in Harlan was civil engineer George Washington Green, who built the large 16-room, three-story Victorian house above the L&N railroad tracks on the hillside overlooking the city school’s athletic complex. He also built a similar, equally large two-story clapboard dwelling nearby. The entire hillside plateau on which those houses stood was known as Green Terrace.
Below Green Terrace and bordering on the river, was a rather large section of houses, stores and churches. The area was across from town at the end of Central Street, across Elm Street and the section was reached by car, or on foot, over an arched concrete bridge. The min-town’s main street was Kentucky Avenue, while the entire section was named Georgetown, for George Washington Green. In those days, it was largely a black community and a segregated section of Harlan.
Kentucky Avenue no longer exists; Georgetown is no longer on the map and segregation has given way to integration. Which brings me to the fact that February is Black History Month. Many notable black personages were born in the month of February, such as: Langston Hughes, poet, who was one of the shakers and movers of the Harlem Renaissance.
Rosa Parks, American civil rights leader.
Mariam Anderson, contralto, who, because of her color, was barred from singing in Constitution Hall, and instead sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Sidney Poitier, the first black actor to win an Academy Award for his role in “A Raisin in the Sun,” a powerful drama about the difficulty of a black family moving into a white neighborhood. The original drama and screenplay were written by a black playwright, Lorraine Hansbury.
Now, I would like to return to that big house on Green Terrace. Years ago, it was the home of tall, imposing Will Ward Duffield and his sister, Louise. He was known for organizing, here in Harlan, the first Boy Scout troop south of the Ohio River. His equally tall sister was a spinster who went into mourning when their mother died. She took to wearing long flowing, lavender and grey ankle-length chiffon garments, similar to that of a nun’s habit. She attached veils to her round, puffy head covering. They hung away from her face and flowed far down the middle of her back. She was an oddity, walking swiftly back and forth to town with her veils trailing and flapping gracefully behind her. Despite her unusual attire, children were drawn to her and she to them. I remember her well, and all of us who encountered her on almost a daily basis, called her Laddie. The house was also the home of 1957 Miss Kentucky Sandra Smith Miller, daughter of the late Sue Yarbrough and Ernest Smith.
Georgetown is gone. Kentucky Avenue is gone. The Green family is gone. Will Ward Duffield is gone and so is his sister, Laddie. Unfortunately, the big Victorian house is also gone, but the aura of its rich history remains. Those of us who remember the past, although it is fading, can at least appreciate the roles the Greens, the Duffields, the Smiths, Green Terrace and Georgetown played in Harlan’s history.