Renovating Cundiff Square is grand -- but let's keep Town Spring monument intact


This photograph, from Rogers Photography archives, shows early settlers gathered at Town Spring, a life-giving source of water around which Somerset was founded. The nine-acre plot off South Vine Street is being purchased by the city and much of existing Cundiff Square will be razed.

Did you see the story in Wednesday's Commonwealth Journal about the city's plans to buy aging Cundiff Square off South Vine Street?

Great idea! To renovate, revitalize and reinvigorate this nine-acre plot so near downtown Somerset seemingly is a good investment and a proper step in expanding the center of downtown.

Except one thing. Mayor Alan Keck's plans to disassemble the monument above Town Spring would tear heartstrings from a piece of history. It would foul the memory of our beginning.

Look and listen at the trickling water below the base of that monument. Town Spring, an eternal stream, still flows, ignoring passing time. The moving water is symbolic of the bravery and determination of Thomas Hansford and several Jaspers, settlers from Somerset County, New Jersey, who founded this community around a source of life-giving water.

Town Spring initially was called Sinking Creek Spring because the water disappeared into the ground and reappeared at intervals. It flowed from a large ledge of rock in a deep ravine. Town Spring is more than that; Town Spring is the bloodstream of a community that would become the "growingest" city in southeastern Kentucky.

The obelisk standing above Town Spring is culmination of a dream by the late C.K. Cundiff who created in his boyhood mind a tribute to our past as he rode in a school bus from Faubush to Somerset.

His development of Cundiff Square at the south of Somerset's downtown district and Gateway Center at the north was, in Cundiff's mind, a heartbeat of what a future Somerset would be. Rapid development of a businesses along U.S. 27 probably inhibited growth of Cundiff Square and Gateway Center, but Cundiff's dream never died.

Mr. Cundiff never got credit for his creations. The nine-acre plot on which Cundiff Square was built was formerly known as Rub Hollow. It was a tangled mess of undergrowth providing cover for alcoholics who satisfied their thirst with a bottle of rubbing alcohol.

Rubbing alcohol is a liquid prepared and used primarily for topical application. It is made from a special denatured alcohol solution and contains approximately 70 percent by volume of pure, concentrated ethanol (ethyl alcohol). The drink was dangerous to the body but balm to a thirsty soul without ready cash to visit a friendly bootlegger.

Rub Hollow also had a sordid past. "The Hanging Tree," reportedly a sycamore, was located near Town Spring. Legend has it that two young men were hanged on the sycamore by a lynch mob angry over the shooting of a sheriff. Later -- too late -- evidence indicated the young men were innocent.

Eliminating that sore spot at arm's reach from downtown should have bestowed "Man of the Year" title on Cundiff. It's fair to say, Mr. Cundiff was a man within himself. He didn't really cater to chamber of commerce types, or inhibiting city regulations. He had a dream and he put his own building blocks together.

To Somerset city officials, we say: "Let alone those blocks that form the monument protecting Town Spring. It marks our roots. It memorializes the spot where Somerset was born. It is a sound of our past.

The still-flowing Town Spring is symbolic of the fearless spirit of our forefathers; their determination to build a community that would become a mini-metropolis it is today.

To disassemble Town Spring monument would tear at the soul of what we really are.

THE COMMONWEALTH JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD is made up of Michael McCleery, Publisher; Jeff Neal, Editor; Steve Cornelius, Sports Editor; Bill Mardis, Editor Emeritus; Mary Ann Flynn, Advertising; Shirley Randall, Production; and Chris Harris, Staff Writer.

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