Displaced Baldwin Junction resident keeps eye on changes

Since 1887, there’s been a Jardon living near what is now the Baldwin Junction, where U.S. Highways 59 and 56 intersect. What Marvin Jardon is seeing today has never been seen before.

The new U.S. 59 construction has moved into high gear at the junction. Buildings are being leveled or are being moved. That includes the house that Jardon and his wife, Norma, built in 1957. More change is on the way.

“It’s going to be more so when everything gets torn up, the concrete put in, the ramps and roads, everything,” said Jardon, who moved into Baldwin City last year. “It’s so hard for me to imagine what it’s going to look like.”

When the Kansas Department of Transportation announced that the location of the new highway would be just east of the present one, those on the west side of U.S. 59 breathed a little easier. But some, like Jardon, shouldn’t have.

At three intersections along U.S. 59 — Baldwin Junction, at County Road 460, where a Zarco station used to be, and at County Road 458, which goes to Wells Overlook Park — the new construction will cross the present U.S. 59, which will be rerouted to the west.

“For the majority of the U.S. 59 realignment in Douglas County, the new highway alignment parallels the existing highway, but is offset to the east by 300 to 500 feet,” said Howard Lubliner, KDOT road design leader. “This realignment was needed in order to avoid impacts to major infrastructure items, such as local watershed ponds, while also allowing drivers to utilize existing U.S. 59 as an access to properties west of the highway.

“Diamond interchanges will be constructed at U.S. 56 and other major local roads, including Wells Overlook and Zarco Road, to provide drivers access to the new highway alignment,” he said. “In order to accommodate these new diamond interchanges and the 300- to 500-foot offset alignment, the existing U.S. 59 highway needed to be relocated for short distances at the interchange locations.”

There will be curves in the road at those three spots to keep U.S. 59 traffic away from the interchanges.

Jardon isn’t sure how all of that’s going to work. In the 50 years that his home sat on one corner of the Baldwin Junction he witnessed a lot traffic accidents — many of them fatal — that occurred at the intersection until KDOT put in a four-way stop several years ago, reducing the danger. Safety was also the primary reason the new U.S. 59 is being built. Jardon wonders whether the new alignment will work.

“It’s going to be confusing,” Jardon said. “With people getting on and off new U.S. 59 and onto the old highway and U.S. 56, I just don’t know how it’s going to work.

‘Hole in the Rock’

Mention the Hole in the Rock to old-timers in the southwest part of Douglas County and they know what it means.

It’s a geologic feature on a tract of land southwest of the Baldwin Junction that occurred over possibly thousands of years, said Jardon, whose family has owned the land for more than 100 years.

There’s a bed of Ireland sandstone that runs through the area. Over the years, Tauy Creek cut a path through it and formed the Hole in the Rock as swirling water ate away the sandstone. According to historian Katharine Kelley’s files in the Baldwin City Public Library, the hole was 8 feet deep at one time. Its depth now is unknown. Just a few feet from the hole, the creek cascades from a waterfall into a pond area.

The hole was there when Jardon’s great-grandfather Xavier Jardon purchased 80 acres of land in 1887 for more pasture.

“My great-grandfather and his brother came from France in 1851 to Ohio,” Jardon said. “Kansas opened up and he moved here in 1855. The Hole in the Rock received its notoriety because of the travel on the Santa Fe Trail, with the watering hole at Willow Springs” nearby.

There was an Indian camp not far from the Hole in the Rock and Indians and settlers would meet there to talk and relax, he said.

“Later, they kind of used the Hole in the Rock as a playground,” he said. “Through the years it got to be something for sunrise services at Easter.

“Yes, for the early settlers it does have significance. Everyone would journey up there on Sunday. Norma’s family came out there from Clearfield. That’s a long way in a horse and buggy. I wouldn’t want to do it.”

But its importance waned over the years and not many people know about it today.

“It was, for my dad in the (1910s) and ’20s, for swimming,” he said. “But even in my time it wasn’t used for that. I’ve never been swimming in it.”

The area has been studied by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which advised KDOT on what should be done.

“Regarding the Hole in the Rock, KDOT met with KDHE officials to discuss project impacts for this natural site,” said Kimberly Qualls, public affairs manager for KDOT.

“As a result of the KDHE review, KDOT staff did make a few minor changes for sediment discharge and erosion control to U.S. 59 project plans near this natural site,” Qualls said. “In addition to the KDHE review, KDOT staff had the natural site reviewed for a phase-two look by the state archeologist for possible historical significance and/or potential impacts by the U.S. 59 project.”

Qualls said the state archeologist determined the site wasn’t eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and that the archeologist doesn’t believe the highway project will have any adverse impact on archeological concerns at the site.

That’s good enough for Jardon, as long as another area of the sandstone north of U.S. 56 isn’t destroyed. He doesn’t think that’s going to happen now.

“No, I don’t think it’s going to impact the Hole in the Rock,” he said. “When they were talking about taking out the sandstone across the road, I was worried. But they’re talking about incorporating that into what they’re doing. It would have taken a lot of dynamite to get that out of there.”

Moving on

Jardon has accepted the changes and moved on. The Jardons built a metal barn near the Hole in the Rock and they go out there frequently. A porch swing was built to overlook Baldwin Junction to watch the progress on the project, which should be completed by 2012.

“We’ve got the barn out there for Norma to garden at and I’ll mow every once in a while,” Jardon said.

Still, it’s not quite what he imagined after he’d lived all his life in the area — he was born at a house at nearby Willow Springs .

“I’ve been there all my life,” said Jardon, who’s a retired postmaster. “I had planned on living there a lot longer, but it didn’t happen.”