Stories being discovered on site of new museum
Posted: Friday, July 25, 2008 8:59 pm
By GLENDA H. CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
There is a Spanish coin from the 19th century with a small hole drilled in it — most likely so it could be worn as a good luck piece. There are enough Civil War bullets and fragments of weaponry, including a pocket knife, to justify the assumption that the new Discovery Park of America site figured in a sizable battle a little over 150 years ago. There is the blackened-earth evidence of a railroad line that served as the impetus for the new village’s progress and the inspiration for its name — Union City — a few short years prior to that.
But so far, there has been virtually no archeological evidence of the earliest settlers in the area — the Native American tribes that hunted this rich-in-game territory. A single pristine arrow head, turned up by local historical treasure-hunter Earl Wayne Powers, is the sole indicator that hunters who relied on skill with bows once ruled this land.
But state archaeologist Bill Lawrence, who is chairman of the Discovery Park of America Native Americans committee and an American Indian specialist, is undeterred. Lawrence spent several days in mid-July following the giant earth-moving machines that are shaping the landscape for the huge multi-million dollar project taking shape in Union City’s northwest quadrant. More recently, he officially claimed the bullets, coins and other artifacts Powers and a co-searcher turned up on the site which local project envisioner and developer Robert Kirkland gave them permission to scout with their metal detectors.
The finds will be featured in the world-class museum — which is the centerpiece of the project — in keeping with the agreement the artifact hunters have made with Kirkland and the DPA board.
Kirkland, retired Union City businessman who began dreaming of the project several years ago, is a frequent visitor to the dusty site, which until very recently was crop-landscaped. These days, the retention pond that will be a prominent part of the extensive horticultural plans for the park, various drainage ditches for the site that renowned Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal has described as “mushy” and some leveling work are all taking shape as the earth-eaters gobble up their daily servings. Coffey Construction Co. in Hickman, Ky., is the subcontractor on the current project for Allen Searcy Builder Contractor Inc. of Union City.
Hal Coffey says he has about eight pieces of bright yellow-orange equipment on site and adds the weather has been a friend to the project, thus far. He estimates about 60 days of dirt work, including creating the access road to the museum/Grand Hall convention center. That finned-edifice will occupy a rise on the property, which is just north of Union City Second Baptist Church and west of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., located between Everett Boulevard and the soon-to-be-built I-69 superhighway. Most of the dirt Coffey’s machines are scooping up in their oddly graceful construction “dance” is being piled in one place to begin creating the future broad avenue of approach to the futuristic steel-ribbed and aluminum- and glass-fleshed structure. When completed, that impressive entrance will be, on average, about 10-12 feet above the current landscape.
The next consideration for general contractor Searcy will be site utilities and bids are being accepted for that phase.
Meanwhile in Ottawa, where Cardinal’s office is located, work goes on refining the ideas local citizen-volunteer committees for the project have put forth. The architectural team, which includes Cardinal; his son and fellow architect Bret Cardinal; and fellow architect and project manager Mark Conley, completed their computerized drawings of the project and forwarded them to RWDI in Guelph, Ontario — the leading wind engineering consulting services firm in the world — at about the same time the design-trio and their families journeyed to Union City for the DPA groundbreaking July 1. RWDI is constructing a miniature 3-D model of the complex and subjecting it to tests that will show the designers how their plans will hold up in the real world. Their work will include “final exams” subjecting the model to tornadic winds, earthquakes and an underground spring-laced building site — all of which are real forces to be reckoned with in the construction of the multi-story complex.
Stories uncovered from the past, drama in the present and high-tech plans for the future — all are being “Discovered” on a dusty rise commanding the 50-acre site where Union City founder Gen. George Gibbs first had a vision more than 150 years ago.
And the vision expands.
Published in The Messenger 7.25.08
Discovery Park of America