There are few towns in America as delightfully unique as Hazard, Kentucky.
Incorporated in 1884, this Eastern Kentucky city was one of the most isolated spots in the entire Appalachian region prior to the arrival of the railroad in 1912.
Before the first locomotive whistled into Hazard, the only access to the valley had been by boat some 45 miles down the North Fork of the Kentucky River or a two-week trail trip over the surrounding mountain tops.
Thanks to the railroad, the city’s population leaped 640% from 587 people in 1910 to 4,348 residents in the 1920 Census.
In the years ahead, Hazard’s population would continue to climb until it maxed out in 1940 at just under 7,400.
This same year, local resident George Stacy completed a wild idea he had begun pursuing some five years earlier — creating a house that looked like Mother Goose.
Though it’s not exactly clear as to why the full-time engineer opted to do this, what is very evident is that the structure quickly became a local icon for this mountainous community — having been featured in Car and Driver Magazine as well as in the New York Times.
Situated on the city’s North Main Street, the roadside attraction features automobile lights that serve as the Goose’s eyes and at one time blinked to passing motorists.
The Hazard, KY, website quotes Stacy’s wife, regarding her husband’s decision to build the fascinating structure, stating, “I have no idea how he came up with that notion. He came home one day with the idea in his mind. I was surprised and I didn’t think he would go through with it. He should have been an architect…”
Ollie Stacy stated that her husband, “went out to Big Creek and shot a goose…” She cooked it carefully, leaving the skeleton intact but removing all the meat. He used the skeleton to scale the building as a sort of a natural blueprint.
The exterior of the Mother Goose house was made of sandstone found in nearby creeks.
Kristy Wooten writes, “My grandpa was the one who helped collect the rocks for the Mother Goose. He said it took 10 days to find all the rocks they needed. They found most of them in the river and had to swim to the bottom of it to get the rocks.”
The roadside attraction is still visible alongside Route 476.
The decades following the 1940 census were not the greatest for this Kentucky community, as the city’s population has declined in each census thanks to the basic economic struggles facing the entire region.
However, considerable work has been placed in revitalizing this iconic Appalachian town.
The work of city leaders may be proving successful, as preliminary reports seem to indicate that for the first time in eighty years, the city’s population will actually increase in the 2020 US Census.
If you haven’t checked out Hazard, Kentucky, in a while, maybe it’s time that you do so… and while you’re at it, don’t forget to get a selfie in front of Mother Goose!
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