CENTRAL CITY, Ky. (8/4/14) — Central City's LuRay Hotel holds a special place in the heart of Wanda Jones, who is proud to say she is '79 years young.'
As plans progress for breaking ground for the LuRay Park, on the site of the historic hotel, Jones has donated several items now on display at the Central City city building.
“In 1952, my husband, Rev. Gerald Jones, and I, caught the train at the LuRay Hotel to go on our honeymoon," Jones told SurfKY News. "We waited in the lobby to take a train to Columbus, Ind. They had large steam engine passenger cars then."
As a newlywed couple, the Joneses were some of the last to ride the passenger trains from the LuRay's then bustling location in downtown Central City. The railroads drastically and quickly cut train service as the use of automobiles became the norm for travel.
Just three decades after the Joneses marriage, the LuRay fell to the wrecking ball in the mid 1970s. The three-story structure was razed, but many area residents have rare items that were auctioned off when the site was leveled.
The city has begun looking for possible items to increase awareness of the rich history of the hotel, which was once a major stopping point between Nashville and Louisville.
"Central City Fire Chief Ricky King came by my house to see what items I had from the hotel that might be of interest," Jones said. "I think he kind of fell in love with what treasures I had, and I was so glad he did. I had the painting of the LuRay, along with the tea set and chair. Just as fascinating for me was the original stool that sat behind the hotel's front desk. For a while, I thought it was handmade, but if you turn the stool upside down, there is a tag that documents that it was made in Louisville. There's no telling how many years this stool sat behind the front desk at the LuRay."
Jones said she also loves the oil painting of the hotel by Magdalene White. The painting is dated on the canvas as being completed in 1976. Jones admits she knows little about the artist or the painting's history.
"The painting was given to me as a gift in 1995," Jones said. "I really don't know anything about the artist. I wish I did. But I just love pictures of historic buildings and this is a great one."
Jones said she has cherished the extremely rare items through the years, but believes that sharing them with others is more important.
"I had these pieces and was using them in my husband's study," Jones said. "When I saw the plans at the city building for the new park I was inspired to give the city these items to do what I can to help out. I wanted to do something for Central City. My husband I lived here so long. We were in the Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Church parsonage for 42 years, from 1965 until my husband's passing. It's important now to give back to this community. I hope that others will do the same."
The Rev. Cody Crowell, current pastor of the Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Church, said Mrs. Jones has always been a person who lives to share.
"She is an inspiring person," Crowell said. "She still teaches a Sunday School class and she is always open to mentoring younger Christians, in helping them to grow in their faith. She is a very giving person."
King seems to agree with Crowell.
"We think it is inspiring that Mrs. Jones gave us these historic artifacts," King said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to incorporate many of these fascinating pieces of history into the finished park. We are hoping to break ground in time to have next year's Labor Day events on the LuRay amphithearter stage. That is our dream. We are also in the process of obtaining a bit more land for the park."Jones' items are on display Monday through Thursday at the Central City city building 8 a.m to 4 p.m. and on Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To find out more about donating items from the hotel, or to make monetary donations to the LuRay Park fund, call (270) 754-5097.
Photos by Paul McRee
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