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Personal and Cathedral Gardens
The history of Cathedral Gardens may not be separated from my personal history. They are as intertwined as any other unique “monument” built by man. Cathedral Gardens and its history may also not be dropped neatly into the customary mental filing cabinet with slots for gardens, churches, fine arts centers, music halls, ad infinitum. It is in a category unto itself.
In 1993 I purchased the land upon which these gardens now exist. The land transaction was intended to yield a retreat from the strife of business and the harshness of a world where most people seem to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Hopes and dreams seemed to have little value in those days, even when those dreams later came to be worth tens of millions of dollars, the gainful employment of many others and a societal asset in many other ways.
My youthful development was influenced strongly by the power of music and poetry, but I turned down a college scholarship in music because livelihoods in that field were then very scarce. Choosing instead the field of engineering, I graduated with the thought that I had my marching orders for life… but it never seemed quite complete. Thereafter my career was dotted as a hands-on tradesman in stone and concrete masonry, carpentry, and heavy equipment operation. In the professional world, I worked as a professional engineer in both the public and private sectors, and creator of multiple businesses… most of which were far ahead of the times in which they were created. At one time I was the principle in five small corporations of varying descriptions. And one of these businesses, a developer of computer software systems, was immensely successful for me and for all those who clung to a dream which came true. But I always longed to expend my energies to create something that was beyond the stars of visibility, although I intuitively knew something was out there which needed to be created.
So immediately before my retirement in 1996, and continuing full time on an almost frantic basis for the following eight years, staff and myself have turned dreams into reality. Now named Cathedral Gardens, our creation is a panorama of a dozen gardens laced with fountains and statuary from around the world. More than a collection of flowers and adornments, though, is the arrangement and focus which envelops the observer with a combination of sounds, scents, textures, shapes and colors which surround and swirl up and around…. somewhat akin to an amphitheater effect.
Dredged from the creek bottom which bisects the gardens, we peeled up brownstone… some two thousand tons in weight. These treasures were hand-laid piece by piece into numerous terrace walls. Plants were trucked in from around the country and greenhouses were erected to supply over ten thousand annuals each spring. Dams were stair stepped down the valley to produce a cascade of lakes into which fountains were implanted which throw thousands of gallons of water into the air every minute. Unique pavilions were built by hand with architectural styles varying from Jeffersonian to Moorish to oriental. And now a Venetian garden displays a plaza and pavilion with the grace of Italy and the Mediterranean. Year by year new creations have been added with all the skill we possess, and all directed to the glory of Almighty God and for the reflection by mortals on the possibilities of achievement when a partnership with “nature” is engaged.
For nine years this place was a personal sanctuary with no signs nor wish for notoriety. But ultimately the Louisville Courier Journal chose to feature our gardens and the calls poured in. Aircraft circled overhead and people wanted to come. In 2003, our first opening to the public with little advertisement, guests not only came, but they came back…some time and time again with friends and relatives. I received a number of thank you letters and blessings, and I saw facial expressions rarely seen in my life. Those encounters sealed my intention to serve others by sharing a need to create that which is truly beautiful and to provide a forum upon which others might expand their intellectual and emotional horizons. I hope that a “History” may be written at a later time which expounds upon others who have created their own “Cathedral Gardens” in their own minds and hearts, and all to the betterment of the world as we know it.
No “History” is complete without extending thanks to the workmen who followed my lead without question, and who often offered valued creative suggestions towards the manifestation of my dreams. And this history is also incomplete without a note of thanks to those who were supportive of the creation of this intangible emotional experience…. the “Cathedral Gardens” of this world and, God willing, a hope to sculpt clouds and paint stars in the next.
David L Daugherty
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