My graduation from the South West Dream Team’s Future Dreamers Civic Leadership training was at Riverside, Farnsley Moreman-Landing. I’ve lived in Kentucky over three years and I have never visited this place. I have lived in the South several times. While I see and hear a lot about Kentuckiana, this is the South. A couple of plantation tours I’ve been to glorified slavery or didn’t bother to mention the people that were the backbone of the United States economy. Those tours were enough to keep me away from Riverside.
South West Dream Team’s Future Dreamers Civic Leadership training took us on a tour of some of the South End’s wonderful spots. Not only did we learn about building communities by talking to people, but we also learned how to do so in a purposeful manner. That class took place at my favorite event space, the picturesque Iroquois Amphitheater. Our next class was about learning the urban planning process and ways we could help with housing. This was at the Riverport Landings Family Scholar House. There’s an artist whose exquisite work is all over that place. Next up was a glimpse at what local and international economic development looked like in Louisville. I was amazed at how much help Louisville Metro, the library, and LHOME are willing to give local businesses. This took place at the amazing Americana World Community Center. I missed the class at the newly renovated Southwest Regional Library about local government. I’ve been to all the libraries, though. Southwest library is one of the best pieces of art as architecture that I’ve ever visited. So I wasn’t going to miss the last class even though it was at a plantation.
I arrived early to beat the traffic. That gave me time to get a short impromptu tour of the main building and surrounding grounds. It’s absolutely gorgeous there. The biggest backyard ever separates the buildings from the river. Lots of greenery and growing things to marvel at in between. Super adorable baby birds nesting right over the front door. A garden that is still growing the asparagus planted by the Moremans generations ago. You can visit most days.
Riverside, Farnsley-Moreman Landing is a part of Metro Parks. They’re open from dawn to dusk excluding some holidays. Plus they have decent WiFi! Trish is someone who has worked there for a long time. She took me out the back doors to admire the scenery of the Ohio River. Trish was around when they found a Native American tool that was ten thousand years old. She told me when she held it, she was awed by the thought of all the people who must have stood right where she was standing looking out at the big gorgeous rolling river.
Before the actual graduation ceremony, there was a tour. The dreaded tour of the plantation. I was happily surprised at what I learned. The historians and archaeologist are implementing something different. Retelling not only the lore passed down by generations but also stories they can prove happened. Like, apparently the son of the owner before Farnsley killed his dad and one of the Browns of the prominent Brown family. Back in the day, all he had to do to avoid arrest was hop over the river to Indiana.
They are also marking the places the enslaved people lived. Not calling them slaves which turns their humanity into property. The term they use is “enslaved people” to reinforce this was a tragedy being done to people. Our tour guide, Teresa, one of the site’s historians, told the stories of the people who were kept in a terrible injustice, as well as stories about the property owners. When Farnsley, the original owner of the mansion, died there were not a lot of records of the fifteen enslaved people that were there, only a record of the 15 people being sold. Two of them were small children. Two enslaved people ended up as firemen on the river after the Civil War. One enslaved person was given a place of honor next to the Moremans in their cemetery. There are letters telling more of her story. We know she mattered to the Moremans, we don’t know where her family is buried. There’s a love story about Farnsley that has never been proven. The Moremans seemed like activists and trendsetters for their time. Victoria, a seasonal tour guide working on her Ph.D., says she hopes to show the humanity of all the people who lived there: from the Native Americans to the enslaved people, to the Moreman descendant who lives on site as one of the gardeners. She hopes her acknowledgment of all people will be the catalyst visitors need to show more compassion and humanity to others.
Riverside is also a part of the Louisville Loop. Hop on your bike and visit the last paved site of the Loop. There is even an ice cream social and jamboree happening on July 14th. It might be your first time or you may have visited as a kid, either way, it’s worth the trip.