When I was preparing recently to give a public walking tour from Harper Lake to the site of Louisville’s Matchless Mine, I didn’t at first realize the extent to which the changed landscape around us would itself be a striking element of the tour. Lovely, large homes and neighborhoods with green lawns and mature trees have largely replaced the open spaces that had wide vistas to the west, south, and east. Along what is now the Hillside Open Space just east of the Louisville Fire Station #2 on Via Appia, we stopped on one of Louisville’s paved trails to look over what had been the site of the Matchless Mine. A quiet expanse replanted with native grasses has replaced the industrial mine structures, railroad tracks and rail cars, and a large mine dump that were located there. Given the peaceful surroundings of the area now, one would not be able to guess at the mine’s tumultuous history or know that at least seven men lost their lives in accidents at this mine.
While some of the far views are today blocked by buildings, I couldn’t help but think about the few public amenities that Louisville miners had available to them compared with what I could view as I stood with tour participants next to the Matchless Mine site. Across from the Louisville Fire Station #2 on our right, the Louisville Recreation & Senior Center was spread before us. Not far to the west from this location is the Louisville Police Station. Looking in the distance to the southeast, we could see vehicles traveling on Highway 36. The miners who worked at the Matchless Mine for about $3 a day no doubt would have been startled if they could have seen these changes. I wished that I could time travel to the past and see the Matchless Mine and Louisville as they looked in the early 1900s … so long as I would be able to return to the Louisville of today.