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The city of Providence has recently begun renovations to the Providence Arch, built in 1927 and 1928. Mayor Doug Hammers said the work being done will save the structure, which was suffering from decay of some of the brick work as it nears its 100th birthday.

After years of debate, renovation work has finally gotten underway on the historic Providence arch. A crew has been working for the last week to replace crumbling brickwork and make sure the structure is steady and will last for a long time to come.

In past years the city has discussed taking the arch down in order to rewire the electrical work, as well as repainting and possibly powder coating the metal structure of the arch itself, However, current state highway right-of-ways have prevented the city from doing so.

“We’ve saved that arch,” Mayor Doug Hammers said. “We’ve got one column done except for the concrete cap and we have one to go. Its solid all the way down.”

When the arch was installed in the first half of the 20th century, Westerfield Drive in Providence was a dirt road. In fact, the current location of the arch was located nearly a mile from the actual edge of the city. It was used, in part, to alert vehicles passing on what was the US41 that there was a successful city nearby, just off the highway.

From the very late 1800s, when cities around the country first began installing electrical service, up until the 1940s, the installation of lighted archways near the entrance to cities was a popular trend. At a time when most roads were still dirty and electricity was not available everywhere, having an arch lighted with electric lights was seen as a sign of success and wealth.

Hammers said that city paperwork shows that the arch was constructed between 1927 and 1928. At the time the arch and the road leading into Providence became known as “the Great White Way,” which was a reference to New York City’s Broadway district, which during that time was called “the Great White Way” because of the theaters’ use of electric lights.

“I think during that time, everybody in the country wanted a little piece of New York,” Hammers said.

Since its original installation, however, things have changed. Westerfield Drive is now state Highway 120. Under current law, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet holds a right-of-way that extends 15 feet from the center line of the road. No structures or decoration can legally be constructed within that right-of-way.

Because it predates passage of the current right-of-way law, the archway is allowed to remain. While the city can make repairs to the structure, state law would potentially block putting it back up if the city ever took it down. That is why city officials have been looking for ways to repair the arch without taking it down.

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069