The Sinking Spring – An Unknown Place at Centre College



Preston Miles Describing Spring on Centre's Campus

Hello my name is Dr.Preston Miles! 
I am chemistry professor at Centre College, but as many people on campus I do more than teach. This is a quick overview of my knowledge of the Sinking Spring. Please take a minute and watch.

Common reaction from students when the Sinking Spring is mentioned: There is a spring on campus?!


Greetings Reader:

My name is Kathleen Penna.  I am an Art History major at Centre College, class of 2014.  By scanning this QR code you are acknowledging what is around you and I applaud you! Here, on this website, is a discussion of the numerous reasons why the physical location within you are standing is significant to our campus.  I would like you to know that you are standing in the Sinking Spring–one of Centre College’s most serene, historic, and environmentally crucial areas on campus.   Look around–what do you see?  Be aware that the state of the spring will be different with which season you are reading this blurb, but is the spring looking at it’s best possible state that you can imagine? Please, I ask you to think creatively.  Think of the possibilities with how this spring, which has been in existence longer than the college, can look.  Personally, I can imagine clusters of lilies throughout the grassy area and a large patch of wild flowers on the slope adjacent to Main Street.  As my imagination (and hopefully yours) can run wild, be aware there are numerous things to be considered with whichever alterations are done to the spring. For instance, environmentally–the spring’s ability to function, not becoming clogged or filled with chemical-runoff from Main Street, the strength of the soil on the slopes, and institutionally–how the physical environment will continue to function for Centre College. 

First, I would like to call your attention to the importance of the aesthetic nature of this spring.  Centre College is a beautiful campus and a large amount of money has been put into the landscape and the maintenance. This physical area, however, seems to be neglected.  Over the past ten years various changes for the design of the spring and what would be beneficial have been considered and discussed.  I am not sure why nothing has taken place, but I can assure you that any changes would be costly and would need continuing maintenance.  Be that as it may, changes are being discussed, such as an increase in flower beds, a few more trees (to be used as framing devices for an increase in privacy) and a stone wall parallel to Main Street for a decrease in the level of sound.  However, as these ideas would be aesthetically nice for the spring, some of the faculty are interested in returning the spring to what it would have been in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century.  Personally,  I can imagine these discussed changes to be very beneficial for the college in many dynamics. 

W. J. T. Mitchel claims, "landscapes are normally thought of as formed by and consisting of natural and cultural forces which can be identified and studied.  Considering these inter-dynamics, landscape is the medium that holds and channels these forces." With Mitchel's concept in mind, I would like you to consider the possibilities of educative experiences that could result from aesthetic changes in the spring.  There are a few that come to my mind.  First, with adding new vegetation, students who are interested in the environmental aspect, could learn from and weigh in on decisions about which plants would be beneficial for the strengthening of the soil to prevent damage from run-off water.  Students who are interested in design could learn from a landscape architect why he or she made certain choices in placing and choosing particular vegetation.  Therefore, the space could be used for many different focuses of study.  In addition to Centre's two outdoor classrooms, this area could serve as a classroom as well where, metaphorically, the Sinking Spring becomes student's text books, literally surrounding them with things to learn and explore. 

In another dynamic, this space could be used as a meditation place.  Currently, however, the water flow is moistening the majority of the low grass area.  Therefore, for this place to have more than ten persons, attention needs to be given to the water flow so that individuals can sit on the grassy area without having their trousers moistened.  

Overall, if the spring was improved to be more aesthetically pleasing with the correct considerations in mind–whether becoming redesigned to resemble how it would have been in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century or filled with wild flowers and native plants to Kentucky–there would be little to no negative repercussions. I will say again, the spring has been neglected over the years. Presently, it is eroding into itself. Aesthetic attention and rebuilding the physical area where erosion has been present would be beneficial to the ecological area, but also bring attention to an area that has shaped the town of Danville. 

By the hand of man, the Sinking Spring could be aesthetically altered with the previously discussed  conventions of landscaping to please individuals taste for what they, or you, view as beautiful. However, I invite you to expand your thoughts with what you deem as 'beautiful'. Consider the beauty of this spring in an alternative dynamic, as I, and others, find beauty and significance in the historic and the environmental aspects of the spring. Reader, please explore this sight further. On the left side you will find a link to commentary on the Environmental and Historical significance of the Sinking Spring and various documents that have had to with the spring's existence. 

Yours truly,
Kathleen A. Penna