MADISON COUNTY, Ky. (FOX 56) — Jay Webb likes the view from an empty cabin overlooking the Kentucky River. But the view, which includes the impressive Clays Ferry Bridge, was hidden when he purchased the property in late 2021.
“Everyone thinks the state owns the property and they’re shocked when I introduce myself as the owner,” Webb said.
He discovered the four-acre site was for sale while working in the area as a surveyor. It includes a stonewalled overlook built in the 1930s, probably as a project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
“I thought someone needed to save it,” Webb said. “Sometimes, I question ‘Why me?’”
A year ago, people crossing the big I-75 bridge linking Madison and Fayette counties wouldn’t have known there was an overlook on the hillside. Drivers couldn’t see the stone wall, the house or anything because there was so much overgrowth.
A drive to the overlook would’ve revealed a huge illegal dump. “You could see no view at all. It was completely blocked,” Webb said.
Webb worked with the Madison County Judge-Executive to get a state grant to clean up the site. He says dump trucks hauled out more than 330 loads of trash over a three-week period.
Gradually, the interstate bridge, the river and the original two-lane bridge at the bottom of the mountain came back into view.
“We just started trimming trees, cutting bushes and it keeps going and going,” Webb said. getting it.”
Now, the cleanup work is much more manageable.
“Once a week or so, I try to pick up a bag of garbage just walking the road,” Webb said. “I notice the bag’s a little lighter each week.”
Webb also started a Facebook page for the Clays Ferry Overlook where people share pictures, of their visits. Some are recent, others are from decades ago.
He gets emotional when he describes one that was shared. It was the last picture taken of a man who then went off to fight in World War II. Webb said he was told the man died storming the beaches of Normandy.
“You can look at the old pictures compared to the new and (in both cases) it’s families and children and everyone pointing out, looking over the view and looking over the bridge,” he said. “And everyone seems to smile, so I like that.”
MORE SPIRIT OF THE BLUEGRASS:
Webb has also become a bit of a historian. He knows that there was a ferry crossing the river as early as 1792. Around 1870, a one-lane bridge was built across the river at the bottom of the valley. The first span of the Clays Ferry bridge at the top was built in 1946 and the second span came with the construction of I-75 in 1963. In the mid-1990s, the two spans were connected to make one solid bridge, in what was considered to be an architectural marvel.
He’d like to fix up the cabin overlooking the bridge to be something of a mini-museum and visitor’s center where travelers could learn some of the history of the area. He is building a collection of postcards and newspaper clippings. But he said it may just be a place where he hangs out during his spare time in retirement, telling stories to anyone who will listen.
There’s no real gain for Webb in owning the property except the joy of knowing he’s given people a reason to get off the interstate.
“It is satisfying when you’re done and you can look back and see your accomplishment at the end of the day.”
Editor’s Note: The best way to get to the overlook is to take Exit 99 off I-75, take the road under the Clays Ferry Bridge, cross the one-lane bridge by Proud Mary restaurant, and go to the top of the hill on the Madison County side of the river. The overlook is on the left. It can also be accessed off Exit 97.